Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So yummy!

Last night was cream corn night. No, not eating it, making it.

Honestly, I had no idea you could make and freeze cream corn until I had the privilege of eating some created by a friend of mine. I’ve tweaked her recipe for my own tastes and here it is.

18 cups of blanched corn
1 ½ cup butter
2 ½ cup cream
1 cup sugar

Mix and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Run through a blender or food processor, adding a little more cream if necessary, scoop into freezer bags in meal sized servings, freeze.

I did 54 cups of corn and came out with 24 meals worth of cream corn. SO YUMMY!!  And I KNOW its gluten free because I made it from scratch.

The challenge in this recipe is not in the baking and bagging. It’s in the peeling, blanching and husking of the corn. Mr. Amazing harvested and peeled the corn for me. Then he blanched it all while I took our youngest to a trial karate class. My job was the husking and baking.

Well, a couple of years back I bought a corn husker from Pampered chef. It took me about two cobs to figure it out but man is that thing slick! And sharp! I almost lost fingertips three different times. But all and all it only took me about an hour to husk 54 cups of corn.

Cost for ingredients – about $10.
Time spent, about 2 ½ hours from garden to freezer.
Grocery savings – about 50 cans of cream corn at about $1.50 can = $85

That is a win. J

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The harvest of savings . . .

I use a lot of different ‘tools’ to help our household lower its grocery budget. Coupons, sale shopping, menu planning and more go into my efforts and will continue to be built upon to work to my goal.
But nothing is as effective as Mr. Amazing’s only real hobby – our family garden. Measuring the size of an average city lot he grows potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, strawberries, onions, carrots, corn, dill, sunflowers, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins and glory knows what else.
Planning starts in late February or early March. See types are carefully chosen based on what happened last year and what we want to eat for the following year. What we have left in the cold room is reviewed and seed pricing and availability is researched.
As the May long weekend nears plans are made for having the plot tilled and scheduling planting, seeds are purchased and the garage and green house are investigated for the necessary tools. A reconnaissance trip to every single green house in the area is made to determine the best prices and plant quality and quantity for those things we don’t plant from seed. We generally spend the May long planting things.
Then we wait, watch and hope as sprouts pop through the ground. We hold our breath and race to cover tender seedlings when the temperature gets to low. And Mr. Amazing begins his summer long battle with the weeds, wind, bugs and Mother Nature. Most any summer evening he is home you can find him down in the garden tending his babies.
The result? A bounty of goodness. This year we’ve pulled more then 40 cups of strawberries, 30 gallons of tomatoes, 5 gallons of bells peppers and a gallon or two of jalapeno peppers. We’ve given away bag after bag of carrots and haven’t pulled even a quarter of them yet, I lost count of how many cucumbers we had and the corn harvest will likely overwhelm me.
How does this help my grocery bill? Well, besides the obvious savings on fresh veggies, I can them as well. So far – I’ve done 30 (or is it 40?) quarts of dill pickles, 18 jars of relish, 5 pints of strawberry jam, 21 pints of pepper jelly, 36 pints of salsa and two quarts of hot sauce. In the crock pot right now is a batch of tomato sauce I’ll be canning tonight and four large flat boxes of tomatoes in the basement wait their turn for processing. The corn will become cream corn (diet busting but oh so amazing). The potatoes and carrots will be carefully stored to be eaten all winter long. The pumpkins will become grinning Jack-O-Lanterns for many of the neighbourhood kids and then pumpkin puree for muffins and pies later in the season.
Sure, my time has value. But the grocery bill savings this processing creates just can’t be denied. Dill pickles are $3 a quart!
By the way. If anyone knows another way I can use up the remaining 3 gallons of green peppers I’d love the tip! I’ll likely put through another 15 pints of salsa but I know I’ll still have some left over!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September shopping recap.

I started this blog yesterday because I had just finished my two big monthly shopping days:
-          Safeway discount day (10% off everything)
-          Nutter’s Power Wednesday (20% off everything)
I actually did pretty well. At Safeway I spent only $374.55. I swapped out a few brands in favour of less expensive ones on things that I buy out of habit. I also made sure that if it wasn’t on sale, and wasn’t ‘urgent’ that I didn’t buy it. I also explored the world of ‘rain checks’. I’ve never gotten one of those before and it’s cool that now I will be able to pick up the sale item they were out of sometime in the next 90 days. The plan is to pick it up next month so I can double the discount. 
At Nutter’s today I didn’t do as well. Nutter’s is where I purchase my gluten free items and our supplements. I spent $180.12.
I bought a round of sausage from a local Hutterite lady for $20. AMAZING sausage. It will last us 3 or 4 meals.
On groceries so far this month I have already spent $574.67. I still want to hit the fruit truck (BC Peaches!) and I’ll need to use my rain check for Miracle Whip before discount day as we are pretty much out.
Since Mr. Amazing and I had decided to start this project during our budget meeting last week, I’ve only got $600 for the grocery category. Meaning I’ve got only $25.33 left for the remainder of the month.
So two tasks for the next three weeks:
1.       What can I do to make that $25.33 last to October?
2.       What can I do differently next month so I have more money left to make it through the rest of the month?
Since Nutter’s was the place I wasn’t able to cut back, lets’ start there.
I bought:
Fusilli corn pasta - $3.99
Rizopia Fusilli - $3.29
Rizopia Elbows - $3.29 x 2
Udi’s white sandwich bread - $7.99 x 3
Double chocolate muffins pack of 4 - $9.99
Ceasar’s G/F microwave pasta dishes - $9.99 x 3
Borage oil - $38.99
Estro sense - $64.99
Vitex - $14.99 x 2

We are feeding the whole family the GF (gluten free) pasta instead of making two different kinds all the time.  It’s more expensive but there is less waste and it’s more efficient.

The sandwich bread has been advertised as available at Safeway, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll have to watch for that.

The two biggies I can eliminate are the chocolate muffins and the microwave pasta meals. They are amazingly tasty. But I can bake GF muffins at home from a mix for less. Four muffins for $10 is an extravagance. The mix is $4.99 and I’m sure I’ll get more then 4 muffins out of it. So I need to experiment with that a little. That’s an easy fix.

The pasta ? Well . . . on Thursdays I work from 9:30 am to 9pm. I eat both lunch and supper at the store. My habit so far has been that if the store is having a great week I let the store buy me takeout. A hugely bad habit as there isn’t much in takeout that’s GF. So I either break my diet or spent $15 - $20 on takeout that is GF (the Korean place does Bento boxes I love and the Vietnamese restaurant down the street has a wonderful hot and sour soup).  The other thing I’ve been eating are these GF pasta dishes I get from Nutter’s. But at $9.99 each that’s not much cheaper.  So realistically, the only solution is to cook extra of whatever we are eating on Wednesday and bring it for supper on Thursday.  We’ll have to invest in some more microwaveable Tupperware containers but that will be worth it I think.

The third option is to research if there are other places in Swift Current I can get my supplements and what the prices are. At $133.96/m plus tax that’s a big expense to just make each month.

Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My name is Jessica and I love to shop for groceries.

There, I said it. Sad isn’t it? The deal is that until about 5 years ago I lived in a ‘financially challenged’ kind of world. And groceries were the only thing I felt like I could shop for without guilt. The family needed to eat, right?
What has become an issue is that we are spending $1000 or more each month on groceries. So, starting this month my long term goal is to cut that number in half. No biggy right? Except for a few challenges.
1.       I’m celiac. This means I need to spend more to get the same stuff. It sucks but it’s true. And since I eat at work 5 days a week I need to find gluten free options that are also lunch box friendly.
2.       I live in a small town. My grocery options are limited. There is no such thing as coupon doubling etc around here.
3.       Mr. Amazing (my husband) and I are both self employed and have 4 children. This means I need to be more creative with my cooking as I work at my dress shop to 6 every night and between my husbands clients, board meetings, kids activities and other general life commitments we can’t be sitting down to eat at 7:30 or 8. It also means that I simply do not have the time to shop at a dozen different places to get the best deals. I need to find the best ‘average’ prices and shop there.

Also, and I know this last one is pathetic, there are certain brands I am loyal to that I am simply not willing to compromise on. Kraft peanut butter, Udi’s gluten free bread, the ice cream we love.  Yes, there are cheaper brands out there. No, I won’t be buying them.

This blog is going to track my tricks, tips and journey on how to get us back to a more reasonable spending limit.  I will also be touching on other ways to cut costs and make life in general more efficient as I find them.  

The rules: Mr. Amazing and I have long budgeted things like toilet paper as a ‘general household’. The rules for our budget state that if you eat it, it is groceries. If it is just used up (i.e. toilet paper, shampoo etc) it falls under ‘general household’ and won’t be included in the ‘grocery’ heading.  The grocery heading also includes vitamins and the supplements I take for early onset menopause, since they are ‘eaten’ and cannot be claimed on our medical plan.

The goal: For the past year or so Mr. Amazing and I have been allocating $300 for ‘general household’ and $700 for ‘grocery’. Every month I am running out of money. So the long term goal is:
-          $150 for general household
-          $350 for grocery
That will put our total payout to $500.
So follow along if you are looking for ways to cut your household spending.