Posted in Parenting, tips

Are You A Winger Or A Planner? (+5 Tips to Saving Money Groceries)

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Lots of stuff on sale for Valentine’s Day weekend!

Before my husband and I had kids and a mortgage, meals were super easy.  We would either just go to the grocery store and buy whatever we felt like eating during the week or we would eat out (“oh shucks, we forgot to thaw the meat again, oh well, let’s just eat out”).

Then, well, I became pregnant, we bought a house, I gave birth to Charles, municipal taxes went up, sales taxes went up (the combination of the Federal and Provincial tax where I live tallies up to about 15%), electricity rates went up, gas prices remained high despite the crash of the barrel price (we pay on average 1.10$/L which amounts to about 4.16$/gallon).  Yikes!  Though our salaries went up as well, we soon found ourselves looking for ways to keep more money in our pockets (because who doesn’t want more money in their pockets?).

Here are the 5 things that helped us save money on groceries (because groceries are pretty much the only thing we had control over).

  • We started to plan our weekly meals.

I created, printed out and laminated a meal-planning sheet and each week we would jot down what we wanted to eat for lunch and supper with a dry erase marker.  Then, it was just a question of jotting down on a grocery list what we needed to buy.

  • We started to plan our meals based on what was on sale.

You see, every Wednesday, a Publisac gets delivered to our door.  It’s basically a bag filled with flyers from local stores.  Now, we used to just toss it in the recycling bin.  Eventually, though, we took out the flyers from our local grocery stores and started going through them.  We then took to buying the bulk of our ingredients only when they were on sale.  Then we planned our meals around those ingredients.  This is great, because besides saving money, it also allowed for creativity as we ended up buying stuff we might not have bought normally.

  • We (and by “we” I mean my husband) started to do our groceries at 2-3 different stores (all in close proximity to one another)

We’re lucky enough that there are 5 grocery stores (6 if you count Walmart) within 5 km of each other and our house.  This allows us to go to the 2-3 that offer the best prices each week.

  • We began buying food and household products that we use regularly in bulk sizes (provided they were cheaper that their non-bulk counterparts – which isn’t always the case).

One of the first purchases we made when buying the house was getting a deep-freezer.  It. Is. Wonderful.  We are also lucky enough to have a storage space under the stairs where we can store extra non-perishable food items.

  • We continued to make (pretty much) everything from scratch.

Both my husband and I like to cook, so this has always been pretty easy for us.  But we’ve expanded our repertoire over the years.  No more store-bought pie shells, chicken pot pie or pizza sauce for us!

It may sound like a lot of work, but we did this one step at a time (by the way, did you know that it takes, on average, about 66 days to form a new habit?) and we haven’t regretted it!

How do you do your meal planning? Do you wing it or plan it?

Posted in Parenting

Wednesday’s Words of the Week: September 24th

1.  Obsessive: In the last week, I made some apple blondies, blueberry muffins, apple crumble and banana bread.  Obsessive much?

A sample of the "small" batch of banana bread I made two days ago.
A sample of the “small” batch of banana bread I made two days ago.

2.  Moo:  I’ve got a 3 week old little one at home.  I won’t elaborate more on the subject ;).

3.  Independence: They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here goes:

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Little Dude, loving the new addition to the washroom: a 2 step stool!

4.  Prevention: Just in case the toddler decides to get out of bed in the middle of the night to wash his hands…

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Safely tucked away in Amélie’s closet for the night.

5.  Brrr:  Fall is definitely here.  It arrived very suddenly two weeks ago.  We’re already heating the house!

6.  Outdoors:  I went for a walk with my partner and baby girl the other day.  It was absolutely beautiful outside!  I had Amélie in the stretchy wrap and she was very happy about it.

P1000797How would you summarize the past seven days in your life in 3 to 7 words?

Posted in Blogging, Ten Thought Tuesday

Ten Thought Tuesday

TTT

  1. I’m 20 weeks along today.  Can you believe it?
  2. We haven’t caught anything in the potty yet.  My son waits until his diaper is on before relieving himself.  BUT, he does like sitting on his new “chair”.
  3. The weather here is all over the place.  Yesterday it was 25C and rainy and tomorrow it’s going to be 0C with a chance of snow.  I mean, come on Mother Nature, isn’t is spring yet?
  4. The little guy’s new favourite breakfast food is oatmeal.  When I tell him it’s time for breakfast, he enthusiastically grabs the box of oatmeal (that he chose when we went grocery shopping together) and sets it on the table and then helps me put everything else we need on the table.  Then, he helps me prepare it.  His favourite part though is eating it! 😉
  5. Today, I’ll be making these delicious energy bites for the accountants at the office where my partner works.  They’ve been putting in so many hours to get the tax returns done before the end of the month and I think they all deserve a little treat (my partner included).
  6. Sunday, my partner made some delicious brownies to bring to work yesterday (we follow the recipe without adding the espresso and they are absolutely divine!).  Needless to say, the triple batch he whipped up didn’t last very long at the office.
  7. I can’t wait for the park in front of our house to become more dry so that I can bring Charles during the weekend or once he’s home from daycare.
  8. Yesterday for lunch, I made some hot brie, turkey breast and pear sandwiches.  So yummy!  (Hum, I think I may be in need of a snack, this is the third point in relation to food lol).
  9. With today’s weather the way it is, I’ll be making the most of being indoors and try to tidy up the house.  I’m feeling loads better now that I’ve been resting for two weeks so I actually have the energy to do some cleaning (yay!).
  10. I think it might be leopard gecko mating season; my female has been digging like mad for the past three days.

How are you doing today?

Posted in Blogging, More Than A Mom

Vote For Me! Please?

Ok, full disclosure:  I’m going to be doing some shameless self-promotion.

About a month ago I saw an interesting post appear in my reader.  Pat, from The Ranting Chef, was looking for entrants for a dessert competition.  His goal: to pit 16 different dessert types against one another to find a favourite among his readers.  I love to bake and I love dessert so I thought to myself: “self, you should give it a go!” and so I did.

I was both surprised and thrilled when I received word from Pat that I was in.  I mean, I don’t have a cooking blog and there were only 16 spots available.  He assigned me the chocolate cake category.

Now, this is where you come in.  I made my cake and it is now time to vote.  Yesterday, my competitor’s Jell-O dessert, the Strawberry Jell-O Shot Cake was presented and today my Oreo Cake has the spotlight.  There is a voting period that is open until next Wednesday (April 2nd).  Every vote counts, so if you think my dessert looks good, please go vote for it.  Of course, if you think the other one looks better you can vote for that one instead, no hard feelings ;).  If my dessert wins, I go through to a second round and will be pitted against another type of dessert.

So who wants a slice?

 

Posted in Blogging, More Than A Mom

Stuffed Bite-Sized Choux Pastries (Non-Dairy)

In trying to keep up with my sweet tooth despite taking dairy out of my diet for my son’s sake, I’ve been experimenting with some classic recipes and using alternatives to the typical dairy products used to complete them.

Today, I tackled choux pastries and decided to make a couple of fillings to stuff them with.  Yum!

Bite-Sized Choux Pastries

Ingredients (yields approx. 35 mini choux pastries)

  • 75mL (1/4 cup) almond milk (or any other dairy alternative)
  • 75mL (1/4 cup) water
  • 30mL (2 tbsp) coconut oil
  • 2.5mL (1/2 tsp) sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125mL (1/2 cup) flour
  • 2 medium sized eggs

How to make

1. Place grill in center of oven and preheat to 190 C (375 F).  Place a silicone mat (or parchment paper) on a cookie pan.

2. In a small saucepan, bring almond milk, water, coconut oil, sugar and salt to a boil.  Remove pot from the heat and add the flour.  Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mix forms a ball that detaches from the sides of the saucepan.

3. Set the pot back onto the heat source and, on low heat, continue to cook the dough for a minute or two.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat source and let the dough cool down for a few minutes.  Add the eggs, one by one, and beat with an electric beater (or, if you’re feeling brave, beat vigorously with a wooden spoon) until you obtain a sticky, homogenous paste.

5.  Spoon the paste in a piping bag (or in a ziploc bag with an end cut off) and pipe onto your baking sheet, making sure to leave about an inch between each puff.  Note that the puffs will approximately double in size once cooked.

6.  Stick in the oven for 35 minutes or until they’ve reached a light golden color.  Turn off oven and leave them in the oven with the door slightly ajar for another 10 minutes.

7.  Admire your masterpiece.  (BTW, at this point, these suckers can be frozen for up to a month).

Now, you could stuff these suckers with pretty much anything as they have quite a neutral taste.  However, I decided to stuff mine with some sweetness!  So I’ll give you the recipe for the two fillings that I made.

Dairy-Free Carob Custard

Ingredients (yields about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 cup rice milk (or another non-dairy equivalent)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (or 2 lightly beaten egg yolks)
  • 1 tbsp carob powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

How to make

1. Have eggs ready in a bowl, and set aside where it will be within reach.

2. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, whisk together rice milk, sugar and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally to prevent corn startch from clumping.

3. Remove from heat.  Use about 2 tablespoons of the hot mixture and whisk into eggs.  Slowly whisk egg mixture into saucepan.

4. Return pot to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens or about 2-3 minutes.  Do not allow to boil.

5. Remove saucepan from heat and add vanilla and carob powder, mixing well.

6. Pipe custard into puffs.  (Note: it is rather runny so it’s better to pipe from the top so that it actually stays in).

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Sweet Pecan Butter

Ingerdients

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp almond oil

How to make

1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and process to death (ie: until you obtain something close to a homogenous paste).

2. Pipe into puffs.

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Of course, all you have to do after is set the stuffed choux pastries on the table and try not to eat them all before you take a picture.

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ENJOY!