Feed Me

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Other years, I’ve always included new foods in my list of favourites, but I don’t know if I tried a lot of new things this year. My food favourites this time around have more to do with how I get the food on the table, instead of what the food actually is!

Have a Plan

As I shared in January, I took an online course called “Grocery Budget Bootcamp“, which I loved, and it was super useful for getting me to be more intentional about what we were buying, as well as planning our meals. Taking the course made me realize how much stress can flair up in our home when I don’t have a plan for what we’re eating. I was consistent with planning suppers, but breakfast and lunch were more up in the air, and every single morning, around 11am, Anika (who LOVES to know what the plan is) would ask, “What’s for lunch?” And every day at 11:01am, I would get really grumpy. That may seem ridiculous, but she asked the same (legitimate) question every single day, always in the middle of our homeschooling morning, when I didn’t want to be thinking about food, and it stressed me out. Then she’d get stressed out, because there was no plan, and then everybody was grumpy. By the time we were finished with school for the morning and I had the head space to think about lunch, it was late, and everybody was even more grumpy because they were also hungry at that point. It was a disaster every time, until I finally figured out that all our problems were solved by simply coming up with a weekly menu which included breakfast and lunch. Our mornings went smoother, everyone was happier and less stressed, and we are eating better meals with more variety.

Prep Ahead

The other wonderful thing that happened this last year was that I started making smoothie packs to stick in the freezer. I usually have two green smoothies a day, so every morning and every afternoon, I was cutting and peeling vegetables. It was time consuming, and our cutting boards, knives, and peelers were always dirty. I’d seen the idea of smoothie packs on Pinterest, but I didn’t think it would work for my smoothies, because of the type of vegetables I was using – I’d never heard of freezing cucumbers! Well, it turns out you can! And freezing spinach is SUPER easy – we just buy the huge bags at Costco and put them straight in the freezer. Freezing avocados also works really well, so I was set.

A few major benefits have come out of this – my smoothie can be prepared so much faster now that my freezer is full of smoothie packs, the kitchen doesn’t get as messy, and we can buy all those vegetables at the lowest price. The Grocery Budget Bootcamp taught me the importance of grocery sale patterns – fresh produce doesn’t go on sale super often, but every few months, there will be a sale on cucumbers, peppers, or avocados. When one of those things is on sale, we buy enough to last for one or two months’ worth of smoothies. It’s ended up saving us a ton of money to do it this way, and all it took was a little bit of research to find out which vegetables work well to freeze.

I’ve never explored freezer meals, but this makes me think it’s something I need to look into…

Alright, I want to hear all your tips – what are your best tricks for getting fed in the easiest, fastest way possible? Do you like to have a plan? Prep ahead of time? Give me all the food advice!!

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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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