Coming Soon(ish): New Kitchen

I’ve been wanting a new kitchen since we purchased this house but there’s always been something else that we wanted or needed to do. Frankly when faced with a big sum of money or a lot of little things it’s easier to spend on the little things. That’s meant going on short vacations, purchasing some furniture, fixing the washing machine, buying new mats for the bathroom. You get the idea.

This year we’ve dubbed the year of the house. Since the kitchen is a huge project we asked our favourite contractor to visit us with the aim of saving for to do it next year. He’ll be providing a detailed quote but he estimated somewhere between $15,000 – 20,000.

I must confess my heart clutched at that number. I’m determined to do the kitchen by next April. This means saving $1,600 per month in a year if I want to do this.

The only way to do this is if I slash my spending considerably and stop saving for everything else:

  • vacations: I need these, even if it’s $200 to go visit a friend or look around my neck of the woods.
  • Life Happens: giving this up would mean I’m just throwing myself into debt if something were to happen, like an appliance dying.
  • Car: this can be reduced but the whole point was to have a sizeable down payment if my 2007 vehicle is no longer feasible as well as to ensure that I’m maintaining her properly
  • Gifts: I give a lot of gifts because I have lots of people to treat. I shop frugally and put a great deal of thought into my gifts so this is not budging
  • House Insurance: this is non-negotiable
  • Medical – this is also non-negotiable it covers those needs that aren’t covered by insurance and since I have to wait for insurance to reimburse me it also helps me not go over budget.
  • Sky is Falling Account: I have two of these. One is liquid and the other can easily be liquidated. I treat one as a job loss account and the other as retirement savings.  My aim is to have 6 months savings in one so that if I were to lose my job I’d have breathing room.
  • Mortgage additional payments – I’ve got money being set aside so we can pay the mortgage sooner.
  • Leftover Fund: money that was budgeted but wasn’t used gets put here to be spent on fun extras.
  • Home Improvement: for any non-kitchen related upgrades we want this year.
  • Kitchen: I currently have ~$100 going into this. So you know, just $1,500 more needed per month…

My sky is falling Job Loss account  has a little less than 25% of my goal in it. To help my heart, I’m going to act as if the money currently in that account is being put towards the kitchen. This will allow me to not stress too much while still building the job loss account.

DECISION: I’m going to keep saving as I do with the knowledge that next April all my savings lines may be pressed into service. All extra money, ML’s side hustle or my staying below budget, will be siphoned into the kitchen fund.

REALITY: To save $20,000 in a year is definitely a stretch goal. I’m not sure it’s reasonable. So this year is every month is going to have to be uber-frugal month. ML is on board so I know I can count on his support. We’re going to aim for $20,000 and work with the contractor to get it in as close to $15,000 as possible. We don’t want to scrimp on the kitchen as it’s a large job and want to pay upfront for quality products.

We’re not going insane but as the room needs to be gutted and all appliances replaced it’s going to be a big job and we need to realistic about it.



Grocery Budget

Since 2105, I’ve consistently tracked my spending in an Excel spreadsheet. The other day I was looking at my grocery line and got curious.

In 2015 I was budgeting $300/month and my spending ranged from $170 – $350. In 2016 I budgeted $260/month and ranged from $270 – $140. In January of this year I lowered that again to $200 and in March I dropped it to $150.

It’s one of those shocking things as I would have expected that line to climb quite consistently in an effort to keep up with inflation.

Of course I then got curious about how I was doing it!

SWS Groceries definition: anything that can be found in a grocery store, whether or not you can eat it.

With that definition it quickly became apparent that we were able to cut out a lot simply by no longer buying certain products (paper towels is a big one) and buying others only when they’re on sale (toilet paper, toothpaste).

Other changes include:

  • We only buy our convenience food on sale, our closest store has Dollar Days every month or so and I stock up.
  • We tend to no longer get ‘fun’ stuff e.g. cereals, the array of snacks, ice cream, etc
    • If we do they’re discounted and they’re treats
  • We do weekly menu planning which means that we try to purchase things we know will be used
  • We stock up reasonably when things go on sale
    • I used to treat those signs that say Limit 6 per customer as though that meant I had to get 6 massive pizzas.
  • We plan when we have people coming over
    • Previously it would be treated as a surprise and we’d blow a bundle that weekend getting stuff. Now we purchase ahead of time and keep things so we always have something nice on hand
  • We have more meals with little or no meat; most of our meat is chicken
  • We rarely purchase bread (down from 2 loaves a week)
  • We try to only purchase fruits and vegetables we know we’ll use (food waste was a pretty big problem before)
  • I love the idea of yogurt! I rarely eat yogurt so I’ve stopped buying it in spite of the great flavours and deals that tempt me

I can feel the me from 2 years ago rising up and thinking, “My gosh! You’ve got no fun in your life! No snacks – those packaged cake things are only $2. Have some sugar!”

I’m in a bit of shock as typing this shows how far both ML & I have come not only in our grocery budget but in terms of our lifestyle. Though we would both benefit from more fruits and veggies in our day, we have significantly cut down our consumption of packaged goods and food waste.

It will be interesting to see if we can stick to the $150 grocery budget. I know we’ll go over in high entertainment months which is to be expected.

How do you keep you grocery budget in check?


17 for 2017

Carol recently did a post that asked a surprisingly hard question: What is on your 2017 list that is fun stuff, not about debt or work etc?

I left a brief comment that I really had to think about and really doesn’t make me feel really joyful. I want a list that makes me feel like this


I don’t know about you but everything seemed to come back to some sort of goal, whether it was finance, fitness or friend related. I also have a bad habit of turning fun lists into chore lists ( reading a magazine – check!) but this time I swore it would be different.

Drum roll please! Here’s my Fun 17 for 2017:

  1. Sit around and do nothing or something (reading, daydreaming, meditating, knitting)
  2. Experiment with the funky liqueurs that I got as gifts
  3. Pamper myself – bath oils, hair treatments etc
  4. Do a tour of the national parks within a 4 hour radius
  5. Once summer comes, eat outside
  6. Sing, out loud, whenever the feeling strikes me
  7. Dance when the mood hits (that crazy woman dancing to Britney in the grocery store might be me!)
  8. Open the curtains on bright days
  9. Light candles on dreary days
  10. Keep up the zero waste goals – I feel like a rockstar when we we don’t put out lots of garbage
  11. Stay in bed as late as I want on weekends (also don’t overbook my weekends)
  12. New recipes
  13. Tea with Bunny!
  14. Aim to blog at least twice a week
  15. Hang out with ML doing something fun, last year it was walking
  16. Say no to things that  I know will be draining (yes I adore you, no I don’t want to go out)
  17. Because it is actually fun for me: see if I can increase my fun fund by spending less than I budget

How about you? What would make you crazy Kermit happy?

GIF from here


Taking dessert

I always take something when I’m invited to someone’s home. Usually it’s dessert. When looking at my pantry checklist I had completely forgotten that we were going to dinner at some friends.

I must confess to being very tempted to take $5 from the grocery budget and purchase a cake. I managed to pull myself together and make a s’mores cake.


Mine looked similar to the one pictured above but we had cut into it before I remembered I had wanted to take a photo for you guys.

Here are my ingredients:

  • Butter  pecan cake mix (eggs, oil, water)
  • chocolate pudding mix for icing ( milk, powdered sugar, cool whip)
  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers

I baked the cake according to package directions.

While cake was baking, I mixed the chocolate pudding, 1 cup chocolate milk, 1/4 cup icing sugar and 8 oz of cool whip. I refrigerated the pudding icing until ready to use.

Once the cake was cooled I cut it in half to get two layers. On the bottom, I frosted it and sprinkled crushed graham crackers. I then put the other layer on top, frosted, covered in graham cracker crumbs and topped with mini marshmallows.

My only regret is I don’t have a kitchen torch to use on the marshmallows. If I had used a sturdier frosting, I would have broiled it but I was a bit nervous that the pudding frosting wiuld right off.

The cake was a hit and continued to allow me to use pantry items. I was really please to have a quick new recipe and maintain my challenge!

Photo from here

11 Meals

Yesterday I shared what’s in my pantry and freezer as well as my realization that I need those ingredients to make 11 meals. Here goes!

Meal #1: Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

This bad boy makes use of chicken that’s currently marinating in my freezer, potatoes, green onions. It’s also a great simple recipe I feel comfortable trying out.

Meal #2: One pan Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Cheese

It’s been ages since I’ve made this but it was so good! This would also only use half the tray of chicken.

Meal #3: Chicken Tacos

The taco kit gets used as does tomatoes and the rest of the chicken thighs!

Meal #4: Pasta with Vienna Sausages

I’ve been in the mood for comfort food recently and this is basically homemade Chef Boyarde. I usually make it with spaghetti but the tube pasta will definitely work! I’ll also load it with veggies.

Meal #5: Chana Masala and rice

I pinned this recipe a while ago but hadn’t made it. This will be a great way to use the chickpeas and tomatoes.

Meal #6: Roast chicken with potatoes (and later sweet & spicy sweet potatoes)

Whenever we roast a chicken we throw in potatoes and carrots. We always seem to run out of the potatoes & carrots before we finish the chicken. I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered the sweet potato recipe

Meal #7: Roasted duck with red beans and rice

We got the duck because it was on sale and we haven’t had duck in ages. It’s time to roast it and enjoy! Based on my pantry those red beans are going to be substituted with black eyed peas.

Meal #8: Mexican Rice Casserole

I’ll be using a tin of tomatoes and the peas and carrots since I’m out of corn. This is one where the recipe is really  just an outline for me to indulge in flavours while using ingredients on hand.

Meal #9: Lentil sloppy joes

I made this once before and was surprised by how much I loved it. With the weather going from hot to cold within a matter of hours this sounds like just the ticket!

Meal #10: Tuna patties

I really want tuna melts but I feel the tuna will be stretched further and will  make a much healthier meal if I go this route.

Meal #11: Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and bean salad

It’s been ages since we’ve cooked lamb and I’m really looking forward to this.

Based on these recipes my grocery money should be used to get some fresh produce to round out some of these meals and one pack of burger buns. I’ve planned this by guessing that I will be cooking a meal every other day as each recipe makes 6-8 servings or at least 4 lunches and 2 dinners.






Groceries in March

Kroger grocery store ...

That is a view that I’m aiming to skip a whole lot this month!

At the beginning of March, I took time to carefully reduce my budget. I found that by joining the Uber Frugal Month challenge in January I had given myself a reset. Through engaging in the challenge I was able to pay for unexpected items, like yoga, without dipping into any of my savings accounts.

It was wonderful, however, I know my ability to spend to the last dollar. I didn’t want to make unexpected fun my new normal. While I’m pleased that my splurge was yoga, I also know that it could have easily been eating out quite a bit.

I was very pleased with my new budget and then we joined Costco. I had sort of budgeted for it in my mind. I did not budget for the value pack of razors that we got. To be fair, things like razors often blindside me as I’m not great at keeping track of them. So I paid $40 for 20 blades. I couldn’t resist since I had already put them on the grocery list and it would have cost $23 for 5 at my usual place.

I also had a bill I was convinced I had paid turn out to be overdue.

Suddenly my bright idea of adjusting my means seemed like a bad idea. I played with my numbers and my cutting costs impacted my grocery line. It went from $150 to $70.

ML was wonderful, instead of saying, “You know your budget is arbitrary. Why don’t you go back to the original number?”

He said, ” We’ve got lots of food in the house. We’ll menu plan.”

Tonight I did a pantry and freezer check. It turns out we had purchased meat in January before I got hit with the intention of inviting people over. Those dinner dates got canceled.

In the interest of time and my own sanity I did not take note of seasonings, spices, condiments and dessert items. Based on this list I think we’re going to eat well in March:

  • Freezer
    • 1 whole chicken
    • 1  tray of chicken thighs
    • 1 whole duck
    • 1 leg of lamb
    • packages of frozen tomatoes
    • 2 packages of frozen pizza
    • 3.5 packages of fries
    • 1 package of frozen soup
    • 1 cheese
    • 1 pack of bacon
    • 1 loaf of bread
  • Tinned
    • 2 lentils
    • 2 green beans
    • 3 chick peas
    • 3 black bean
    • 3 tomatoes
    • 1 black eye peas
    • 1 peas & carrots
    • 1 corned beef
    • 1 coconut milk
    • 2 tuna
    • 3 sausages
  • Packages
    • 1 lentil
    • 1 jar of pasta sauce
    • rice
    • potatoes
    • 2 boxes of stuffing
    • 1/2 pack of lasagna noodles
    • 1/2 pack of tube pasta
    • 1 taco kit
  • Fresh Ingredients
    • snow peas
    • broccoli
    • bok choy
    • sweet potatoes
    • tomatoes
    • mushrooms

Tomorrow’s task is going to be turning this list of items into 11 meals. If these ingredients spark your own ideas please share in the comments 🙂” target=”_blank”>Image from here

Celebrating in Frugal Style

Happy International Women’s Day!

If you’re like me you’ve :

  • seen the pro and anti posts on your social media
  • saw suggestions to participate in a gender strike
  • were given suggestions about celebrating by purchasing a host of items
  • been instructed to give up the second shift

The last two cost. The first because unless you’re taking a vacation day you’re out of money, also if all the women at my business took the day off we’d just have a lot to do tomorrow.

The second is obvious, no I’m not buying all my female friends trinkets to celebrate their identity.

I opted to celebrate in my own way. Instead of putting money out I went with emotion:

  • I messaged female friends who have lifted me up with notes on why I adore them
  • I took time to honour myself through a yoga class
  • I was kind to myself

The day, for me, serves as a reminder to not judge others harshly, to identify when I engage in sexist thinking/behaviour, and to continue to honour myself.

Did you participate in the celebrations today?



To Costco we go

When we first got married, ML and I blindly followed the path of our parents and got our very own Costco membership.

While everyone around us extolled the virtues of Costco we found it wearing. Just getting into the warehouse was an experience: drive to the other town, try to avoid getting in an accident in the parking lot, circle parking lot four times because apparently indicators mean “I found a spot, you should take it!” Finally park, attempt to not get run over entering the store.

Once in, my rage is up so rude shoppers and staff members are now just the icing on an awful Saturday morning.

I also have no desire to wander the aisles. I want this mission over! Costco, however, has other plans. The cling wrap has moved to a magical place, the chips I wanted are sold out or possibly four aisles over above my low eye level.

To top it off, we never seemed to leave without spending $100.

In short, after that first year we only returned as guests of my parents. It’s been a while and a Costco recently opened close to my parents. ML has mentioned he’d like to try a membership again and slowly I’ve gotten on board.

This time we have rules:

  • No weekend shopping
  • We go in with a list
  • We must know grocery pricing to  properly assess savings
  • Maximum 2 convenience items per trip
  • We must track our savings, if we don’t truly save $100 it’s not worth it
  • Truly saving means that we’re purchasing necessities

I’m wary of Costco because to me it opens a world of possible spending. The urge to purchase things because they’re a good idea or inexpensive is huge.

Are you a Costco shopper? Any tips or tricks to keep our spending sane would be greatly appreciated!


Paying for Convenience

I was first introduced to Chef’s Plate a year ago when I was at a friend’s house. She was ecstastic to share that this company was able to deliver healthy ingredients along with a recipe card.

She urged me to look into it and gave me a coupon. Even with the coupon I didn’t find it to be a great deal.

This year another friend signed up and gave me a coupon for 75% off. Well that deal got me. I signed up and this week I received my two dinners.

The company is good for my green heart: items a sourced locally, purchased from responsibly farmed partners and they’re committed to being environmentally friendly.

My frugal heart not so much. When they say you get two dinners it appears they mean it. When I cook dinner what I really mean is I’m cooking for the next two days. To be honest, I am baffled by people who cook every night when generally you can double a recipe and deal with less dishes.

The full price for the box is ~$50. That’s the amount I spend on us per week at a grocery and it includes things like toilet paper! I’m currently trying to lower that.

Both my friends think this is a great deal so I can only assume that they regularly spend heaps of money on groceries.

As there was a shipping mix up I get 50% off my next order. I’ll order when I see a recipe that really catches my eye.

In my so very short time with them I can tell you I’m going to miss the recipe cards. Ordering the box made me realize we’ve fallen into a slump. It’s time for us to get more creative again.

Have you tried something like this? Have you attempts a convenience save and found it not worth the extra based on your lifestyle?

This would have been a salve to the fake frugal me of 8 years ago. It would have signicantly cut down on groceries and I would have been eating healthy things.

Off to hunt somebody more creative recipes on Pinterest!

February 2017 debrief




  •  # Buy nothing days : 9 days
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 6 uses in 2017): 0 – I suspect this will be pulled out in the summer
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 2
  • # activities with loved ones: 9
  • % over or under budget: 2% under budget


  • I was aiming for an uber frugal month but rather than dip into savings I used money that was within my monthly budget to pay for yoga classes and cover some of the vacation costs
  • Still behaving quite will with my concussion and I’m definitely seeing improvements
  • I’ve switched internet providers and will be seeing a $20 – $30 change in price


  • My vacation line definitely took a hit! But allin all I was good.


  • March often gets expensive as I usually have lots of joint birthday celebrations. As I’m still recovering I haven’t scheduled anything so I may be just fine
  • I did so well in January and February that I gave myself a reduction in budget. I find if the money is available I tend to spend it. I need to remember the budget cut in case I find that I’ve cut too much
  • Some groceries were purchased using points and I wasn’t home for a week this month
  • I hope to keep the spirit of uber frugal month alive in March


February has been a success! I definitely felt treated but my budget wasn’t stretched!

Image courtesy of arztsamui at