The last couple of years have been nothing short of eye-opening for me. I *thought* that kids were expensive when they were first born. I mean, what could compare to cost of diapers and bottles and baby food? Let me tell you. The tween years!
In the last few years my daughters have picked up two expensive sports as extracurriculars—cheerleading and skiing. Then, the other night, they were discussing starting golf with us this summer. My wallet wept.
It was around three years ago that I got very tight with the word budget. For my kids to enjoy all the things they do, it means that we have to cut back in other areas. For me, the biggest place to save is with our food. In fact, I've become somewhat of a budget ninja when it comes to eating.
Here then are my top ten tips for grocery shopping on a budget:
This is your best bet for budget success. If you know what you're eating, then you know what you need, then you clip the right coupons that you've attached to the list you're using.
Seriously, you don't need to go all crazy like the reality show, but coupons do save you money. Store them in your wallet with your cash so they're always handy at the checkout, or paper clip to your list so you can see what you have while shopping.
I like to stock up on things we routinely use like pasta, flour, cereal, meat, and cheese. Kraft Cheesefest is taking place at your local Loblaws store from March 21st to April 4th and this is a great chance to save on your favourite cheeses. If you watch for things on sale it can reduce your overall budget significantly.
If you shop while hungry, you're more likely to toss temptation into the cart with a side of out-of-my-budget.
Only get what's on your list and if you need to, leave your kids at home. Kids and lists do not go well together. Trust me.
Save yourself the gas and inconvenience and only go when you have a full list. This will also help you stick to your list.
Try to have two meatless meals a week and you'll notice a considerable drop in your grocery bill. There are lots of great meatless meal recipes here.
Wherever possible I double a recipe that's freezer-friendly. We eat half for dinner one night (usually with leftovers for lunches) and I freeze one for another time.
I've gotten so good at leftovers that I actually include them in my meal plan for the week. So, if I know we're having spaghetti & meatballs on Wednesday, I know the kids are having the leftovers in their school lunch on Friday.
This will save you from going out to dine on a whim. Fried egg sandwiches, macaroni and tomatoes with cheese. These are quick, tasty and budget-friendly. For more quick, kid-friendly recipe brilliance, see these delicious suggestions on the Kraft website.
If you're looking for frugal, family meals, don't miss the super easy recipes on the Kraft website. I made this Italian Sausage and Pasta Bow Ties recipe for dinner last night and I'm already drooling about the leftovers in my fridge.
It fit all my budget requirements and I used only 1 cup of the Kraft Mozzarella I bought, I can make another meal with what's left. Which leads me to my eleventh and bonus tip...
When planning your weekly menu, look through your refrigerator and pantry to see what needs to be used up before it expires.
Melted. Grated. Shaved. Baked. No matter what you do with cheese, it makes everything taste better.
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I’m taking a big step today. I’m a little afraid, because my addiction has become bigger than anything I could have imagined, but today I am quitting Buzzfeed. And Upworthy. And Trendify. And all other similar crack-like websites. Am I being glib equating these sites with crack cocaine? No, I don’t think so.
These sites are very much like drugs. You get a quick rush, but then as fast as those 101 Puppies with Babies made you squeal with delight, the endorphins are rushing from your body and you’re seeking your next fix. What character are you from Star Wars, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad? Your life won’t be complete until you know for sure. You’ve made it this far without knowing these 77 Amazing Facts That Will Blow Your Mind, but there is no way you can go another minute now. And you just know that your life will be so much richer when you know all 69 Hip Hop Songs That Will Make You Weak In The Knees. Right?
This weekend I spent my time away from my desk and somewhere around hour 29, I noticed a fog starting to lift. My thinking got sharper. I was able to think outside of status updates and 140 characters. I didn't automatically throw everything into a list. Which got me thinking—do I control the internet or does the internet control me? It’s a question I’ve mulled over many times in the last several years, because it seems there’s always something on the internet to suck you away from the task at hand—living your life. So, I wrote down this simple mathematical equation:
Time spent acquiring useless information on Buzzfeed:
15 minutes daily
X 7 days a week
= 105 minutes a week
X 52 weeks a year
= 5,460 minutes or *drumroll please* 91 hours
What could I do with 91 extra hours in my life a year? Try this headline on for size:
16 Alternatives to Buzzfeed That Offer a More Satisfying, Longer-Lasting, Natural High.
lunch with friends
read a book
play with the dog
I'm not saying quitting will be easy. I feel it's much like quitting smoking. First, I have to draw the line in the sand. Am I really going to allow myself to lose days of my life to do something that doesn't actually enrich my life in any way? The answer is obvious—of course not! I expect for a few days I'll have withdrawal. Not clicking those links will be hard, but I can do it. Next, I'm going to bank my hours, much like I banked money saved from quitting smoking. Once I have banked an hour, I'm going to pick something off my list and do it. I'm willing to bet the fix will be much better than anything Buzzfeed and company could spoon feed me.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, that when you wanted to know what someone was doing, you had to ask them. The reality was that you could go days, weeks, even months without knowing that a friend had been to Hawaii, or met a superstar backstage, or got invited to that really cool thing you knew absolutely nothing about. Now, of course, that's simply not the case. You need only pull you up your favourite social media app to find all your friends, family, and strangers doing way more exciting things than you in real time.
Wikipedia defines FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as a form of social anxiety. It can also, in my humble opinion, be described as a form of jealously. And you know what, that's totally normal. You'd have to be superhuman not to be susceptible to that emotion. The key in today's world, though, is getting your fear of missing out under control so you don't actually miss the important things in your life.
Accept that the world does not revolve around you. There are exciting things happening all day that you won't be involved in. Breathe, you're going to be okay.
Accept your reality. Look around. It's not so bad, is it? Chances are you have it pretty good right now. Clothes on your back, food to eat, roof over your head, a job.
Remember that their reality is not as sexy as it looks. I've been to those "exclusive" events where it looks like everyone is having such an amazing time, and let me tell you, most of them would rather be sitting where you are right now.
Seek out the company of your children. Your kids don't have this affliction yet. They are perfect little beings to practice being in the moment with. Don't share this moment with anyone via social media. Be greedy and keep it all to yourself.
Be happy for others. As much as possible, like their picture, wish them well, tell them they're beautiful. What you put out in the world comes back to you tenfold.
Remember. Remember that time you walked on the beach with the perfect sunset? Remember that amazing party you attended? Remember that hot dress you wore? Yeah, that's right, you've had some pretty great moments too.
Do something. Is your time best served surfing Instagram or going for a walk? Trolling Facebook or getting a massage? Ask yourself this question every time you spend longer than ten minutes at a time on social media.
Put yourself in a social media time-out. Seriously, walk away if it's causing you anxiety. There are very real stressors in life—birth, death, marriage, divorce, illness, renovations—fear of missing out attending a party is not a valid stressor. If those feelings creep in, time to kick it old school and step away from the technology.