Grocery Budget Bootcamp Update

Back in January, I shared here that I was taking a grocery budget course (affiliate link). I finished up the course a few weeks ago, and I’m back to say I loved it!! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.

The course includes 13 lessons, covering topics like meal planning, creating a price book, comparing grocery stores, avoiding food waste, and a number of other helpful topics which you can check out here.

In our home, Ben has always done the grocery shopping, partly because he can do it after work and save me an extra trip into the city, and partly because he is so much better at it! He can remember prices, knows when stuff is on sale, and can figure out the best deal much quicker than I can. Also, I am allergic to Superstore – for real. I walk in there, and immediately, my nose runs, my eyes water, and my head gets so fuzzy I can’t even think straight. I don’t make wise decisions under those conditions, so it works out great to have Ben be the designated shopper.

This made a grocery budget course interesting, because I was the one taking it, but he’s the one shopping! So we ended up talking about stuff a lot, and we also started doing a lot of our grocery shopping online, which is absolutely wonderful! Superstore has a “Click and Collect” site so you can place your order the night before, and pick it up the next day. It’s very convenient, and it’s also allowed us to spend more time talking about what are the best purchases – Ben shares all his shopping secrets with me, and I share everything I’ve learned from the Grocery Budget Bootcamp.

The first month, we saved $50 on groceries, and the second month, we saved $70. I was secretly hoping for more dramatic savings, but the interesting thing I learned was that we were already doing pretty good before taking the course. Part of the course includes calculating what would be a reasonable budget, taking into consideration where you live, what stores are available to you, how many people are in your family, and what kinds of food allergies you’re dealing with. According the the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, our family “should” be spending $1140 on groceries per month! We were averaging $720, so our savings didn’t end up being as extreme as some of the other people I was doing the course with, because we’re already saving a lot. Also, shopping in the states sounds crazy!! We just do not get the same kind of deals.

But Ben and I worked really hard, and it was great to get our budget down a little. I’m also pretty confident that as we get better at the shopping strategies we learned, our budget will go down even further.

The biggest game changer for us was tracking prices for food items in different stores. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal that butter is a dollar more expensive at Superstore than Costco, but multiply that by four for the month, and by 12 for the year, and suddenly you’re looking at saving $48 over the year. I would love it if somebody handed me $48. So we’re making sure to only buy butter at Costco. We have our list of what’s better to buy at Costco, and what is cheaper at Superstore, and are trying to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month so that Ben only needs to grab a bit of fresh produce each week. We are tracking prices on Google Docs so both of us can access the list from our phones while shopping.

Ben made an interesting observation – I asked him why he thought the course was worth taking, and he said it made us much more intentional about our choices, which flowed over into other areas of our budget as well. This speaks to how versatile the course is – I was worried it wouldn’t be applicable to our specific situation with food allergies, but the Grocery Budget Bootcamp is all about studying the way you shop, and doing it more intentionally, no matter what you’re buying. I’ve read countless resources on grocery budget tips, and often they involve the hassle of coupons, and buying cheap, convenience foods that we can’t eat at our house. I didn’t want another course telling me to stockpile granola bars and canned soup. We buy our food in it’s original form, which makes it expensive, because how often does fresh produce go on sale?? Well, more often than I thought, it turns out! My favorite day of the week is now Thursday, because all the new grocery flyers come out, and it’s a treasure hunt to find the items we buy regularly at the best price possible. This course is all about shopping smarter, avoiding waste, and being a good steward of your money and your food.

It’s a lot of work to save money on groceries, but I keep thinking about my two favorite pieces of wise financial advice I’ve heard over the years. The first came from Ben’s dad – he said, “If you are having trouble living within your means, you have two choices: make more money, or spend less.” It’s pretty straight forward, but it was something we needed to hear when we were first married. It’s related to the second piece of advice: “It’s better to put your energy into spending what you make wisely, than to use your energy trying to make more money.” One leads to greater contentment, self-discipline, and intention, while the other leads to a constant desire for more. I think about this often as I try to change my mindset about what it means to manage our home wisely and within our budget. I never want to take it for granted that Ben can earn a good pay cheque, and I get to stay home with our sweet kids. That privilege comes with the responsibility of being smart with our money.

I’m so looking forward to improving my ability to budget and shop better, and make wise choices which will benefit us for many years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grocery Budget Bootcamp, you can check it out right here. The deadline for registering is tomorrow, so jump on it while you can! And then email me to tell me what you’re learning – discussing grocery shopping strategies has become one of my favorite things!:)

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6 Thoughts on Decluttering

Someone asked me this weekend if we still have anything left in our house. Ben immediately jumped in and said, “Nope, I only have one pair of boxers left, because she’s gotten rid of everything else!”

After decluttering 2015 things in the year 2015, I’m having an interesting time trying to do the same thing in 2017. Ben has offered to help by going to the thrift store and buying things just so I’ll have more stuff to get rid of to reach my goal. That could be interesting, because he’s also said the thrift store in town is pretty much filled with only our stuff, so I guess he’d buy back our own stuff to get rid of for the second time.

Fortunately, I think we’ll be just fine without taking these drastic measures. Yes, it’s definitely harder this time around, but it’s also better! Last time, I got rid of 2015 things without flinching, and our house looked almost exactly the same, somehow. You would never be able to tell I’d decluttered 2015 items. This time, I’m digging deeper, and really feeling the difference. It’s amazing. Now I’m starting to see the change, and it’s completely addicting. Our house is slowly getting easier to keep tidy, and therefore easier to keep clean, because I don’t have to move as much stuff out of the way while cleaning. I have never been a messy person, but I’ve bought into the lie that we “need” all these things around us.

Take my kitchen, for example. Last weekend, I was ready to do something drastic, so I decided to see how much I could clear off our kitchen counters. Since my cupboards are getting emptier, I had room to store our toaster, mixer, and some other miscellaneous items out of sight, instead of having them sitting on the counter. I moved our phone elsewhere, and only left the the things we use every day. I love it. Even when the kitchen needs to be cleaned up after a meal, it feels neater than it did before. There’s so much open space, it looks cleaner even when it’s messy. All those wide open counter tops inspire me to keep it extra tidy.

kitchen

This was all brought on by my dear friend Natalie, who challenged me to the Minimalist Game. The idea is simple – for one month, get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month. Since I’ve gotten rid of 2015 things in the past, I didn’t think this would be very difficult for me.

Declutter 2015

Oh, my word.

It is hard!! It’s the daily habit that I’m finding tough to stick with. Also, it didn’t sound like a lot of items to get rid of at first, but when you add it up, it’s around 400 things!! Thank goodness it’s February – the shortest month of the year! That saves me from having to declutter an extra 90 items this month!

With all this decluttering and purging, here are a few observations I’ve made this month:

  1. The “Second Pass” is super effective.
    There are many items I almost got rid of two years ago, but I just wasn’t ready. This time I’m ready. If you come across something you’re just not sure about, put it away somewhere and come back to it. It might get easier the next time around.
  2.  Making it some kind of challenge is extremely motivating for me.
    My mom said something wise – minimalism is more about a lifestyle than about the numbers. I agree with this completely. However, some people are motivated by charts or challenges or games, and whatever makes you declutter, it’s a good idea. I still got rid of a bunch of stuff in 2016, even though I wasn’t working towards any kind of goal or counting any of the items. It was still about simplifying my life. But for me personally, having a chart to colour in, or a friend to report to, has dramatically increased how much I’ve gotten rid of. I need to see the progress, and have the accountability. It just works for me. It’s not for everybody. Some people feel that counting the items would slow them down. Fantastic. Don’t count. Do what works for you.
  3. Wherever there is mess, there is opportunity for decluttering.
    When I don’t know what to get rid of next, I just look around for any area of our house that I find hard to keep tidy. I would much rather spend my time getting rid of stuff instead of organizing my stuff. As my kitchen has shown me, keeping things tidy gets much easier when there’s less stuff to keep tidy.
  4. Simplifying my physical surroundings brings more peace and calming to my mental and emotional surroundings.
    Those who have busy minds need calm surroundings. Others are able to handle more clutter and chaos, because they stay mentally calm and at peace. I wish I could remember where I read about this. It’s completely changing how I feel about my home and need for order. I went through a time of feeling overly particular and too focused on a clean house. I can’t stand that poem about leaving cobwebs everywhere in your house because you’re rocking your baby to sleep. Can’t I love my kids, rock my baby, and have a clean house?!! I felt guilty for cleaning, because it meant I was neglecting my children. I’m not thinking that anymore, because first of all, they love playing on their own, and I don’t ignore them all day long, but I do take time to care for our home. And second, a clean home makes me a better mom. I’m not as frazzled when my surrounding environment is under control. Getting rid of clutter makes me feel peaceful.
  5. The more I do it, the more I love it.
    I listened to Young House Love’s podcast about decluttering in which they shared about a study showing that most people actually experience physical pain when they get rid of items they own. Decluttering is often viewed as being unenjoyable. Many people have expressed confusion as to why I want to declutter, or why I find it fun and exciting. My guess is that most people connect decluttering with getting rid of items they love and still want to use. But you know what? I have decluttered 2623 counted items, and many, many more when I wasn’t keeping track, and I still have not gotten rid of anything I love. I have no emotional attachment to spools of thread in weird colours I will never sew with, or gift bags I don’t really like and won’t choose to give a gift in. I can tear a recipe out of a magazine and recycle it. There are clothes I never want to wear, and I keep going back to my favorites. There are books I don’t enjoy reading to my kids, and inwardly groan when they choose them. We have far too many sheets and towels, and more toys than our kids can ever possibly play with. (AND STUFF KEEPS COMING IN!! It just doesn’t stop, although we’re working on that.) I can assure you, there was absolutely no pain caused by removing these things. My life is far better without them. I haven’t reached the hard stuff yet. I don’t believe in forcing anyone to get rid of special, sentimental things they love. My girls used to fear decluttering, because they thought getting rid of special things was what it meant, but now they go through their toys all on their own, and bring me the rejected items because they don’t want to keep cleaning up toys they don’t like to play with. It can be enjoyable! And contagious.;)

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about decluttering lately! Natalie directed me to The Minimalists’ podcast, which has been adding a ton of value to my life this month. If you need some motivation to simplify, you should definitely check it out! I find it very inspiring, positive, and practical. Can’t get enough of it.

What’s inspiring you to declutter? Any thoughts you’d like to add from your experiences with simplifying your life? Or is there anything holding you back from getting rid of stuff you don’t use?

 

 

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Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful: A Little Challenge For You!

I was reading a blog post the other day about getting out of debt and paying off your house in five years or something like that. It’s not a particular goal of ours at the moment – we’re just focusing on being very disciplined about budgeting, and we’ll see where it goes. But what stayed with me from the article was this familiar quote by Dave Ramsey:

dave-ramseysource

Here in Niverville, we have a Buy and Sell Facebook page, and I’m sure everyone who looks at it must recognize me by now, because I’ve sold so much stuff on there over the last couple of years! Since I started my decluttering project of getting rid of 2015 things in the year 2015, I have sent many, many items out the door, so I got up from the computer feeling thoughtful. Was there anything left in the house for me to sell?! Besides our kids of course.;) I thought I had gotten rid of most of the unnecessary items in our house.

But as I turned around, my eyes landed on a painting about our piano, and a thought hit me: “I have never liked that picture! Why do we still have it??!!”

Ben bought it to put in a show home a few years ago, and when the house sold, he brought the picture home. There’s nothing wrong with it – the colors work with our decor, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. We stuck it up above the piano, and I never thought specifically about it again, other than to absentmindedly acknowledge very occasionally to myself that I didn’t really love it.

To add to the ridiculously of this decorating decision, I had a perfectly beautiful, large family picture sitting in the basement, waiting for the perfect spot. I suddenly realized I could sell the painting I didn’t love, and replace it with the picture of my sweet family. Why didn’t I think of this months ago??!!

Later that evening, I was telling Ben about this epiphany while we were cleaning up from supper. He was putting a serving bowl in the dishwasher, and casually commented, “This is actually a very impractical bowl – you can’t put that much in it.”

I looked over, and even though I’ve been using that bowl for years, I suddenly realized he was totally right. When I thought about it, I’d always been kind of annoyed by the bowl – one side is higher than the other, so it looks larger than it really is. And we had a set of two!! They went out the door as fast as the painting.

Somebody gets to buy something on Niverville Buy and Sell for a good deal, and I get a little bit of cash to put towards something I will find more useful or beautiful. Everybody wins.

I get really excited about this little “anti-treasure hunt” – it’s become a fun challenge to think more intentionally about the stuff I own, and figure out what is not adding something good to my life. It’s very freeing to see it all go. useful-or-beautifulsource

I’m curious – if you look around your house right now, can you find one object that you’ve never actually liked? Let me know if you find something to get rid of!!

 

Beauty Everywhere

I was thinking about progress tonight as I watched the sun start to set behind the trees.

treesI remember looking out the window four years ago when we first moved here, and thinking it would take miraculous superpowers to find beauty anywhere after living in the Whiteshell. I was so used to being in the forest by a lake, I couldn’t see anything pretty about Niverville.

But there were still sunsets, and that row of trees behind our house has saved me many, many times.

Ben and AnikaAnd now, after four years of working away at a yard and a deck and a garden, it’s a lot easier to find the beauty.

Ben and EverettAnd I realize it’s more than just a pretty yard – we also love it now. We’ve had four years to settle in, grow our roots, and make memories here. Those are the things that make it very easy to find the beauty just about anywhere.

 

 

 

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How Decluttering Leaves More Room For Love

Friends, I have 450 items to get rid of in order to reach my purging goal for the year: 2015 in the year 2015!

I am very excited, and also a bit dismayed. How in the world do we have so much junk in our house??!!

My home doesn’t look that full or messy. It’s usually quite clean and tidy, because clutter makes me grumpy. And I’ve always had a donations box on the go, for items I came across that we no longer needed. But even so, I have been able to get rid of 1565 items without any trouble.

I notice that our home is a little easier to keep tidy. There’s more room in some drawers. Our basement looked fairly awesome…until Ben started finishing it, and now it’s under construction, which would not have been possible if we hadn’t gotten rid of so much stuff.:)

But the sad truth is that I could probably do this whole thing over again and get rid of 2016 things in the year 2016. So much stuff!!!

Even though I was expecting my home to look emptier and a lot more minimalist, I am still completely thrilled with the results, and I’m not about to stop purging anytime soon. It’s addicting, freeing, and I feel so much lighter when I think of all the boxes we have sent out the door. I’ve probably made a few hundred dollars on our town’s Buy and Sell Facebook page. (I kept track in the beginning, but lost count after awhile.)

I think the best part, though, is that I love my stuff that remains. I’ve gotten rid of the junk that made me feel guilty or burdened, and I just feel happy with the things that are left.

shelves

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo writes a lot about only keeping things that spark joy. It’s not even about the things we actually use – it’s about how those things make us feel. I might use things I don’t like at all, out of obligation or guilt. Or I might have something I rarely use, but I really love it and it makes me very happy the few times I am able to make use of it.

When we get rid of all the things we don’t love, it leaves wonderful things behind, with more space and freedom to enjoy them.

THAT is the best thing I have learned this year.

Also…I love this blog post: “Clutter builds up when we stop making decisions about our stuff.” 

“Rather than choose which wrapping paper we like most, we buy all 13 rolls in a jumbo package. Rather than donate clothing that no longer fits, we hang it back up “in case I need it.” Rather than recycle back issues of a magazine, we stick it on the shelf to read “later.”

It’s those items — the ones that we don’t use or love or need — which slowly fill our closets and drawers, our garages and attics.

Those are the items that make it hard to see the painting on the wall that you do love, hard to find your one snuggliest pair of ski socks, hard to clear off the table to share a meal with the people you love.”

So true.

And very motivating for my final purging push – 450 more things gone by Christmas!

Want to join me?!

 

What I Learned This Week

Well, it’s been quite the week. My mom always says she knows how well I’m doing by how often I post on my blog. I haven’t had much to say….

During my week and a half of silence, I have learned the following:

Mastitis is terrible.

All those women who say mastitis is the worst thing ever are not exaggerating.

I am the heart of my home.

Even though this sounds cheesy, my counselor is right when she tells me to take care of myself because I am the heart of my home and my family needs me to hold things together. If I spend the week in bed, everyone goes a little crazy. Including the house. My word. The fruit flies are living their last day today.

My family is so awesome.

Ben has worked so hard this week, juggling work, parenting, housework, and taking care of me. He’s the best. And the girls have been a huge help with Everett. They’ve all worked so hard, but it becomes pretty obvious how this team needs all the players functioning.

Essential oils have my heart.

People talk about them all the time because they are really that awesome. Oils got rid of pain within minutes. What in the world. I love them.

Raw garlic can apparently kill almost any infection.

You just have to eat enough of it. A head of garlic a day, people

Keep trying until you find something that works.

After hours of researching, I came across some information saying that ultrasound therapy and acupuncture are really effective for treating mastitis. I’ve seen an acupuncture doctor a number of times over the years, and it turns out that my physiotherapy clinic does the  ultrasound therapy, but I had never heard these things worked for treating mastitis, but they did! You never know what can help, so it’s been a week of experimentation….

My doctor is great.

He is so good about telling me how far I can go with the natural stuff, and when it’s just time to get the antibiotics. We filled the prescription, just in case, but at this point, I seem to pulling through okay without it. We have prayed like crazy, and I’ve tried every single home remedy I could find online. I was pretty desperate. Three rounds of antibiotics are what messed up my body really bad about seven years ago, and I’m still having to be really careful about throwing off my digestive system like that, so I was anxious to find a different way of dealing with infection.

My life is fantastic.

When I have to miss out and stay in bed for days on end, it makes me incredibly anxious to get back to normal living. I have never been so eager to do the laundry or clean up my kitchen. Oh, please let me back at it!!

EverettWhat have you learned in the last week?

 

Adults Choose Their Work, and So Should Kids!

This is a follow-up post to The Box That Cleans My House – collecting kids’ items left lying around into a box, and having them do a chore to “buy” back their stuff. As I’ve read the comments on Facebook, I realized there was more to say on the topic….

A few months ago, I read this post about “paying” your children to do extra chores around the house, pointing out that adults choose to work for money, so why shouldn’t kids? Ben and I talked about the idea, but felt it didn’t fit with what we choose to do in our family – our kids get an allowance because they’re part of our family, and we work together because we’re a team.

However, I loved the idea of allowing kids to choose what work they want to do. There are days when I am suddenly motivated to do something in particular, which on any other day might have felt like too much work. I like to go with what motivates me. Also, Ben got to choose his job. He has to work, but nobody is forcing him to do the job he does.

So I sat down and made a list of every job I could possibly think of that the girls could do, and put the list on the fridge. We’re trying to have them do any two each day, but if they’re buying back items from the box, they do extra. These are in addition to the regular chores they have to do every day – make beds, clean up their bedroom, polish the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen/dining room floor, and set and clear the table.

laundry

I wanted to find easy, manageable jobs for them to accomplish quickly, because this isn’t supposed to feel like a punishment – I try to talk a lot about learning to enjoy work, or at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done.;)

Here’s the list:

  • Wash bathroom, entrance, or kitchen floor
  • Sweep bedrooms
  • Fold towels
  • Wipe bathroom cabinets
  • Dust baseboards
  • Dust piano
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Wash a window (inside)
  • Organize the Tupperware drawer
  • Organize shoes in the closet
  • Empty garbage
  • Collect garbage/random objects from inside the SUV
  • Water the garden

dishwasher

Sometimes I let them help in the kitchen or take care of Everett as a “chore” – depends on what needs doing each day.

What has been most interesting to me is seeing which jobs the girls choose. Kaylia chooses anything in the kitchen, or organizing things, and a shiny piano is her new pride and joy. Anika loves washing floors or sweeping.

Judging by that list, one would think my house is spotless all the time, but it’s not – things get busy, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make sure the girls are doing two extra chores every single day. But it’s a process – I loved this post: Why Teaching Your Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage. We’re thinking long term here – long term benefits for me and for them. I like to think about what kind of adults they will grow up to be if I can train them well!

So that’s the list of chore choices at the moment, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Can you think of any quick chores I can add to the list?