Zero Waste-ish

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I’ve been intrigued by the zero waste movement for some time but it often feels overwhelming.  The scope of zero waste in my purchasing choices leaves me dizzy.We tend not to get plastic grocery bags but do get bags for fruit and vegetables. Our meat comes in styrofoam trays, our vegetables in plastic.

Then there’s the not wanting to appear too different so accepting foil take out trays rather than bringing my own “doggy bag” or not bringing my own bags to bulk stores.

While our community does have a composting program I have found it difficult to use. I can’t count the number of times that items have been left behind because the bin wasn’t tilted enough to completely empty it.

Those are just a few of the things that hold me back from this step that aligns do well with my values.The biggest piece of course is not recognizing my successful baby steps:

  • We now only put out two small bags of garbage per week. This has to do with Bunny’s litter which, though compostable, gets left behind often in the bin.
  • We purchase a lot more things that can be recycled.
  • We often shop second hand first
  • We shop less! Gone are the days when a trip to the store ended with $20 of unexpected extras.
  • We no longer purchase as many single use items I.e. plastic cutlery, paper plates, paper towel.
  • We’ve cut down on loads of food waste by using our freezer properly and better menu planning.

I do want to embrace zero waste more fully so I was thrilled to hear that a local organization is hosting a zero waste week challenge in October.

A week sounds good. It’s not so long that I feel like I have reassess every purchase I’m making but ti’s long enough to give me a challenge. My aim is to set myself up for success with this by doing a slow audit over the next few weeks. I’ll make a more conscious effort to compost (hopefully the City is good about pick up) and recycle and see if I can’t slowly make my garbage fit into the mason jar.

Image from here.

Debriefing September 2016



  •  # Buy nothing days :17 days
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 8 uses in 2016): 2+0=2
  • # times used champagne saucers (aiming for 7 uses in 2016): 4+0=4
  • # times ate out:4
  • # activities with friends/family: 8
  • % over or under budget:.3% over budget. This is actually a win since my bill issues could have led me to be 8% over budget.
  • % of goal put toward ML’s debt: 100%


  • This was the first full month of ML and I not seeing each other a lot due to both our jobs. We not only didn’t blow the budget on food expenses but we didn’t get into a  single disagreement!
  • I spent less on food overall, both in our grocery and eating out categories.


  • We used our savings to pay cash for a new couch!
  • Savings were used to start Christmas shopping


  • The garden has ended so I need to go back to ensuring that we’re purchasing fruits and vegetables that are both budget friendly but are actually healthy.
  • October promises to be another full month with ML being away a lot and my job having a few high profile projects. This can easily impact our spending as well as our health.
  • No is a complete sentence! I need to learn how to say it nicely to people when their suggested events do not fit into our budget.


I’m really proud of September! I think this is the first September that neither of us got sick in a very long time. It was a bit painful in August when we looked at our calendars and realized that we would be having time together a maximum of once per week. I was nervous because I worried that we could easily feel overwhelmed and not supported. However, we had set a plan and were able to maintain it.

In the end, we had quality time with each other, didn’t eat out on ‘accident’ i.e. not making lunches, and didn’t have a messy home.

Image courtesy arztasumia via

Grocery Planning


I enjoy doing groceries weekly. It’s a system that works for me. It begins with opening an app on my phone on Saturday mornings as I have tea with Bunny. I then click anything I like the look of from my favourite stores.

Once the first part is done I look through to see what I can cut and get rid of any extras that were just pretty. I also look at what I have on hand to make meals. The reason meal planning comes last is because I enjoy purchasing a few extra things for the pantry that way when I have weeks I can’t make it to the store for one reason or the other I’m not suffering.

As I’m  a sale shopper it’s also important to me that I never pay full price for things with a long shelf life. So while I may not need pasta this week you can bet that the $0.99 package is going in my cart.

I’m definitely fortunate as I:

  • Can freeze items such as sale meat and fresh produce
  • Have the budget to purchase a bit extra to fill the pantry. The pasta, tuna, corned beef and rice mentioned below were all purchased on sale.
  • Have pantry space

Then of course a months like this one. A month where I’ve tied myself up and I’ve got $30 for 2 weeks worth of groceries though I had planned to have ~$100. In those cases I comb the pantry, shop the flyers for needs, and pull out my favourite recipes. Most importantly I make lists, the detailed lists that I usually don’t bother with because I know I’ll have options.


Here’s the list for the next 2 weeks:

So what did my groceries look like this week:

  • Granola bars
  • Pasta
  • Coffee
  • Eggs
  • Taco Kit
  • Milk*

*not on sale

To be fair, I should probably have skipped the coffee as ML has enough to last until the end of the month but it’s that not wanting to pay full price that got me. This size doesn’t go on sale too often so saving $5 made it worth the extra dig in my finances. Same goes for the taco kit.

Why am I sharing this? Well most of my blogging is for both of us. For me to remember that I can love my life on a budget and to share that having a little money left until the new budget doesn’t mean that you’re eating things that don’t taste fantastic.

Do you have any favourite meals that you are tasty and inexpensive?

Playing Catch Up

I seem to get myself in tight corners these days by overpaying bills.  My year of paying down my debt has taught me a few tricks to help when it looks like I have too much month at the end of my money.

I had laid out a rough plan but I had no details just a dream of spending $50 until the rest of the month. The look through my wallet brought that up to a maximum of $80. Here’s how it’s working so far:

Bunny: $30; the store only had her large bag of litter so she was a bit higher than anticipated.

Groceries: $28; this is with a detailed meal plan in place.

Entertainment: $20 – my alma mater’s homecoming is this weekend and though I purchased tickets lunch was not included.

Anything else is not in the budget! It’s helpful to see this laid out because it’s so easy when it looks like I’ll be over budget already to spend just a few extra dollars here and there.


I’ve shared a few times about my savings lines. They’ve been my saviour numerous times this year and have kept me from tumbling back into debt. Knowing this I got curious about how badly back in debt I could be if I didn’t have these lines going and boy did I get a surprise!

On average this year I have spent $816/month from my savings! In some cases these are truly extra costs that we wouldn’t have purchased if we didn’t have the money, such as the new sectional. Others I would have mostly definely have funded using a credit card such as our Vacation for wedding , all costs associated with Bunny and the Community Garden.

Looking at this, it’s no wonder I never felt like I could leave my debt behind when I was trying to budget without including a savings portion.


Bills Again

I opened my mail last week and got a bill for property taxes. Here’s the thing: I can’t recall the last time I got a bill as I’ve got online banking set up and I pay it as a monthly bill. I felt a bit ill as this is ‘my’ bill in the division ML and I have going.

When ML got home I mentioned it to him and promised to call the City to see what’s happening. Which is when he reminded me that a few months ago I had accidentally paid our water bill rather than our taxes. We still have an enormous credit with the water company!

So in lieu of checking my accounts again or even seeing if I paid a portion of the tax bill already I paid it in full and added a $50 buffer. Can you guess what I did? I double paid in my panic. Now we’ve got a huge credit with the company though my monthly budget is smarting as I have basically paid away my buffer.

I now have $13 budgeted until the end of the  month with a buffer of $40 help loosen that. While I know $13 isn’t enough for me to go the next 2 weeks, especially since Bunny needs some items, $50 should work.

Here’s my plan:

  • Bunny: litter, kibble ($20)
  • Groceries: make sure to menu plan! ($20)
  • No eating out!!
  • Check my wallet – someone had re-paid me and I hadn’t deposited the cash ($30). This would then go right back into the budget giving me a bit more room.

Shopping my Closet

The weather is slowly changing here and so office talk turned to the seasonal wardrobe change.  This led to the best shops to  visit for a refresh.

Usually I would do my change over but try to identify gaps so I could purchase items. This time I brought all my learning together. Between now and October 5th I barely get a chance to breathe. I average one significant work event every 2 days.

So I emptied all my clothes and only grabbed the thingsthat gave me an immediate thrill (KonMarie). I then planned what I would wear every day between now and the beginning of October. I tried on the outcits, wrote a list and packed away the clothing in order.

I tried to keep to the Project 33 spirit:

16 tops

9 tank tops

6 pants

1 skirt

1 dress

1 jacket

While Project 33 is supposed to incorporate all clothing worn outside of home I opted to keep it to my work wardrobe. I haven’t counted my off hours clothing but since it’s only taking up 2 of the 4 drawers I’m feeling good.

The surprise for me was that I had no desire to go shopping once I completed the activity.

I’ve found by switching my clothing regularly I spend less on clothes while weeding out things that don’t suit. Currently it appears I shop my closet every 2 months.

I’m happy with this change as it has given me a greater appreciation of what I own while being easy on my budget.

What tricks do you use to keep your clothing budget on check?

From passenger to partner 

“Can you believe this? We spent only $16 in the grocery. Do you remember when $50 a week was pushing it?”

ML grinned at me, ” Yeah, look at us now. I used to get angry with you then.”

“I know,” I said thinking of those times in the early days when I was militant with that $50 budget.
“You would get so mad if we had to throw out half a pepper. I used to think you were losing it. It’s half a pepper!”

I felt a bit defensive but held my tongue and I’m so glad because he followed with, “Now I see how big a deal half a pepper is which is why we can now spend less than $50 on groceries.”

When I began this journey ML was grudgingly on board. It’s so good to hear that he saw the benefit. It’s also a reminder that we’re now a team. I can still be a bit militant when dealing with my budget. I was forced to recognize this after ML had shared that my budgeting sometimes stresses him out because of how upset I get if I overspend.

Part of my reaction has been because I’ve felt that the planning has been on me. I haven’t given ML credit he deserves. He’s gone from grudging passenger on this journey to an active participant.

This can be easy for me to miss this change as we practice frugality differently. I’m the person who finishes a ketchup bottle, I find a way to use those last dregs. ML is not that guy. I find it impossible to go to a Dollar store and spend less than $5. ML has been known to leave them empty handed. 

This week we spent $30 at the grocery store, there was another stop after our conversation, and got extra things for the pantry.

We’ve come a long way!

Rant: Judging

I met with the Investment advisor last week and it was an interesting meeting. I have told you that I moved to my current country when I was a teen but I haven’t told you that I’m “a woman of colour.” That term covers a lot of ground so I have no idea who you’re picturing but I’ll leave that to you.

The reason I have never mentioned race is because a non-white immigrant brings up all sorts of ideas. While I like this guy’s values so far I’m seeing where his own bias is going to make this relationship troubling if I don’t speak up soon. He assumes that my parents don’t believe in change, that ML and I have had to navigate cultural differences, and that we still do.

This is our second meeting and I’ve told him he’s projecting. At which he admitted that he was but was attempting to understand where I was coming from.

Here’s my problem,if I were white he would assume that we’re coming from the same place. He wouldn’t attribute the way I handle my life to some other culture but to my personality.

ML and I have had very few societal differences. Like any married couple we’ve had differences based on our personalities. Also I can’t presume that someone who identifies as American is representing all American culture. Rather their family, schooling, and community has shaped them. “Culture” can be too broad a term. It’s like saying all Canadians are polite and apologetic (not true) and assuming a Canadian is polite because of their culture instead of the fact their mother has been asking them for the magic word before handing over dinner.

The other thing this guy does is let me know he paid for my policy and won’t be making any money off me for 10 years or unless I invest $100,000 per year. I should have slept on the deal but I transferred. Now I feel trapped.

To be honest I was lucky when my friend was my investor for years. We spoke the same language and I didn’t feel judged. 

I’m going to stick it out with this guy. He didn’t poo-poo my idea of paying down the mortgage and though he is presumptuous maybe this is my opportunity to educate him.

I think at the next meeting I’ll clear the air and give him a bit of a run down. I suspect his rudeness and, what I identify as, prejudice comes from ignorance rather than true ill will.

If not I’ll keep my eye out for another investor within the company. My mum has said,” I know your word is important but it is your money. You need to be comfortable with who is handling it.”

She’s right and I need to not trap myself because I feel badly about taking my business away.

Thank you for reading!

Waiting on the furniture

When we purchased the new furniture we knew we would have to get rid of the two futons in the family room.

The frame of one is damaged while the other has a splash of paint on the arm. With these flaws I wasn’t comfortable trying to sell either of them.

I could offer them for free or pay a company about $200 to get rid of them. Paying additional money was not in the budget and I was a bit worried about finding someone to take them.

Hope came in the form of ML’s sister who overheard our conversation and mentioned she would love to get the futons.  Yesterday she borrowed a friend’s van and came to collect them.

Great! Except now we have nothing to sit on for the next 2-3 weeks. While it was tempting to purchase a stop gap chair or two (camping chairs are on sale!) we opted to go with the free option that delighted our inner children:

Yep, comforters laden with pillows!

It’s a fairly comfortable solution and considering the number of times I indoor camped as a child this is an awesome solution.

To be honest, when I started this post I wasn’t sure where my emotions were on this one. It’s nice to know I really am excited about our interim solution.