An Organized Pantry

Save Your Time and Money

An Organized Pantry

I love my pantry. It’s not a decadent walk-in with custom shelving and natural light (that would be my dream pantry) but I’m very happy with it all the same. Sure, it’s small, and I wish the door would shut itself (the kids leave the door to it open approximately four thousand times a day), but all in all, my pantry is perfect.

See, I keep my pantry uber-organized. Not because I’m some sort of OCD tidiness freak, but because as a frugal mom, I hate wasting food or spending more than necessary on groceries. So having a very organized pantry means I can easily see what we have and what we need.

Here are my tips for organizing your pantry and how this will save you money!

  Remove absolutely everything from your pantry - If it’s not food, find another place for it. Check expiry dates and toss anything outdated. Weird half packages of things you never eat but might have bought for a single recipe? Challenge yourself to use them up in a casserole, stew or soup.

  Sort by type - Keep your baking products together, as well as your soups, pasta noodles, and lunch snacks. Keep like with like means you’ll be less likely to end up with six jars of mayonnaise. If possible, adjust the shelves to eliminate dead space.

  Don’t over shop - If you’re obsessed enough (like me) to keep a pricing binder of often-purchased items, add a column to track the dates certain items go on sale. Why stock up on a year’s worth of tomato sauce when it’s a product on sale like clockwork every three weeks?

  Use clear, stackable containers - You can buy these at the dollar store, source out vintage Tupperware at thrift stores and garage sales, or simply use empty commercial food containers. Open packages lead to food waste through spills and food going stale.

Having a more organized pantry makes preparing lunches for the kids a snap, giving us fewer excuses to send them to school with money for the concession. It also supports our meal planning system, ensuring we don’t eat out because there’s “nothing to eat” in an overflowing pantry!


The Lowdown on Bonus Air Miles

Are They Worth It?

The Lowdown on Bonus Air Miles

My local Safeway has been trying to win back business from competitors, and recently began running coupons offering 250 bonus Air Miles with $100 grocery purchase, or 500 bonus Air Miles with a $200 grocery purchase.

As a frugal grocery shopper, committed to paying the cheapest price possible for our food, I keep a detailed spreadsheet with products, sizes, and the lowest price I’ve ever seen our favourite products sold at.

Armed with the Air Miles coupon and my list of the best prices, I went to Safeway to see if I could still take advantage of this great Air Miles deal without spending more than I would buying the same products at other stores, such as Superstore or No Frills.

If you want a nitty gritty list of what I bought and how it compared at each store, you can check it out on my blog on my Money Smart Mom website.

I spent $14.65 more at Safeway than I would have if I had bought those items at the lowest price I’ve seen at other stores. Because I only buy items when they’re at the lowest price, I compared the shop against that list, not what the same items were selling for at other stores at the time of my shop. For instance, I overpaid by a dollar for Laughing Cow Cheese because I paid $6.99 for it, when I’ve seen it on sale for $5.99. However, that day it was not on sale at any of my local grocery stores for the best price of $5.99, but I wouldn’t have normally bought it if it was not on sale.

With the bonus deals in store, the base Air Miles offer (1 AM for every $20 spent) and the 500 Air Miles bonus coupon, I earned 740 Air Miles, and I consider that those Air Miles “cost” me $14.65.

So what can I get with 740 Air Miles. Turns out, a great deal more value than $14.65.

175 Air Miles = Admission for 2, plus 2 pops and 1 popcorn at Empire Theatres ($30 - $46 value, depending on day of attendance)
740 Air Miles = 4 passes (with 40 AM remaining) = $120 - $184 value
175 Air Miles = $20 gift card to Sobeys
740 Air Miles = 4 gift cards (with 40 AM remaining) = $80 value
225 Air Miles = $25 gift certificate at Gap
740 Air Miles = 3 gift cards at Gap (with 65 AM remaining) = $75 value

Air Miles roughly seem to translate into being worth $0.125 in cash-like redemption value, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.

From talking to friends in other cities, it seems like their usual spend $200 Air Miles deal gets them 250 in Air Miles. Assuming a deal like that, I would only have received 490 Air Miles.

I could easily have spent $200 on my Safeway visit that would only have been $100 at No Frills by picking the wrong things. With the $0.125 valuation, the 740 Air Miles are worth $92.50 - in that case I'd be losing money, but only a little bit. However, if the Air Miles deal had only been 250 I would have had just 490 Air Miles - $61.25 worth. If the same groceries could have been elsewhere for $100, in the big financial picture you're $50 in the hole.

So has Safeway won me back? As long as they’re running this super Air Miles offer, definitely. I’ll go armed with my best price list and shop the staples.

However, if you’re not obsessive about your pricing, you could easily spend overspend by $60 - $100 or even more on a $200 load of groceries compared to the best price at other stores. And Safeway does not price match - so you can't run an end game that way.

At Safeway, many products were twice the regular price of other stores, and some items were three to four times the sale price at other stores. Our brand of bagels were $4.79 at Safeway, $1.50 on sale at No Frills, and when they're at the lowest price, they're just $1.

It would be easy to think you're getting great value by loading up on Air Miles when really you're spending more on groceries than the rewards are worth.


Beauty on a Budget

Reconsider Your Routine

Beauty on a Budget

Just because you don’t need flip flop ready feet these days, there’s no excuse for letting yourself go in the name of a tight beauty budget. Here are a few tips for trimming the expense of your beauty routine.

Check local beauty schools – their prices are often significantly lower than salons.

Consider switching to a stylist who works out of their home instead of in a salon.

Make your own beauty products from pantry ingredients – visit this site for recipes.

Most major drugstores offer free makeovers. Ask for a fall refresh on your usual routine and select just one new fall trend product.

Sign up to receive coupons or advance notice of sales from your favourite beauty supply store.

Get together with girlfriends and have a mini-manicure or pedicure party – have everyone bring their nail polish collection to share.

Reconsider your beauty routine. As much as I love being a blonde, the upkeep for a full head of blondeness was getting outrageous. Back to my natural brown it is! Shave instead of sugaring, pluck instead of wax – can you skip the salon and do it yourself?

Want to figure out if a new beauty product is worth the money? Check out YMC blogger Dan Thompson's Beauty: Busted Blog - he rates the best and the worst, and lets you know what products are "a complete waste of money."