Food & Finance


How Much We Spend on Groceries

Our total grocery costs over the last three months amounted to:

  • September: $246.68
  • October: $206.35
  • November: $196.90

This doesn’t count eating out. We eat out once a month and we’ll spend anywhere from $60 to $90. We also work part-time in a fancy seniors home where we get to eat supper on the days we’re working, which is about three to five days a week. Before working there, our monthly grocery bill averaged out to be $360 to $420 a month and we went out for dinner twice a month. 

It took us a few years before we were able to get our average monthly grocery bill down to what it is. JP and I have been living in Southern Ontario for five years now; it was a matter of trial and error, buying from the different grocery stores before we found where we can generally get the best prices for what we eat on a regular basis.

Our food costs are low for the following reasons:

  • We shop at two to four different places for the cheapest prices;
  • We’re vegetarians (don’t be hatin’!);
  • We make most of our meals at home, quick ‘n’ easy style;
  • We hardly eat packaged food;
  • We always look at the cost per unit;
  • JP is uncannily a savant with prices. He’s like a human app. I don’t know if this talent stemmed from watching stock prices so much, but he just knows when something – in or out of season – costs more than it should;
  • We add up our costs each month and compare our monthly spending.

Where We Shop
No Frills

This is generally the best place for most of our produce (bananas, oranges, onions, broccoli, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, avocados, tomatoes, cauliflower, squashes, carrots, etc). Here, we also get our spices, rice, pasta, beans, legumes, tofu, and canned tuna for our cats. JP eats salmon once in a while, so he’ll get the frozen packaged salmon when it goes on special. Every week, I bake our bread, so we get our baking needs here too.

We accumulate PC Points whenever we shop which gets us $20 off every three to four months or so. On your membership account, you can designate your preferred food choices. When you do this, they’ll notify you when your faves go on special each week and if you buy them, you get extra points. When we started doing this weekly points special thing, we started accumulating enough points to get money off on a regular basis. What’s also nice is that in case you miss the points specials one week, you can save them for the following week if you need to.

Although No Frills is connected to Independent and Superstore, the prices aren’t always the same from store to store, so we try to be mindful of that. We get our garlic, sauces, and vinegars from Superstore. I also like the prices and selection of personal care products at Superstore. Sometimes the food prices are cheaper at these places than they are at No Frills. 

Comparable places for the cheapest produce are Walmart and FreshCo too. We’ll go there if it’s more convenient for us. 

Costco

They tend to have the best prices for apples, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce, cheese, and eggs. We get most of our other staples here. We calculated that the amount we save on tea and coffee alone pays for the annual membership! Here, we get our oatmeal, coffee, tea, olive oil, canola oil, sriracha, mustard, hot chocolate, soy milk, milk, maple syrup, veggie burgers, edamame, tissue, detergent, toothpaste, and vitamins. I’m now off the local ice cream, but we were getting it here at such a good price. 

This summer, I bought from here an inexpensive set of little tomato plants which I planted and grew in my backyard. From late-August to now (late November) we’ve enjoyed the reddest and tastiest tomatoes. 

At Costco, we bought a 5L tub of Pink Solution, this extremely effective, non-toxic natural cleaner. About twice a year, they’ll have a vendor selling it. We’re going onto year 3 of using it and we still have 2/3rds of a container remaining. We use it to clean everything in our house. It cost us about $50 and it also came with this incredible grease remover and awesome stain-removing laundry bar. We just LOVE this stuff!

Bulk Barn

We get peanuts and xylitol sweetener here. Sometimes we’ll splurge and get raw pumpkin seeds, which aren’t cheap at all. But when you heat those seeds for 4-5 minutes over a frying pan on medium heat and add a bit of soy sauce at the end, BOOM! You now have the tastiest food to go with drinks!

Other Places

We live among farmers. So in the spring and summer, we’ll sometimes get our eggs, syrup, and veggies from the family-run farmer stand down the road. We also buy a massive bucket of honey one to two times a year from a guy down the road who sells honey for a local beekeeper.


How We Eat

We’re healthy eaters, however, we also can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking. We’re huge fans of low-fuss cooking. We found that the only way to enjoy healthy eating is to make really tasty food using good seasoning and sauces. 

I usually just stir-fry onions and veggies to eat with rice, pasta, legumes, tofu, and even oatmeal. JP likes to bake everything: veggies, squash, and even his salmon. It is our habit to press garlic and marinate it in olive oil and vinegar (apple cider and balsamic) with some seasoning. We always have a bottle of this garlic concoction to pour on top of whatever we’re eating. It’s a great way to keep your weight down and stay healthy when it gets cold. Once in a while, I’ll make a killer onion potato omelette to manage my carb cravings and to nurse hangovers. To manage chip cravings (at heart, I’m a chip addict), I make kale chips.

For meals that take longer to prepare, I’ll just throw on some Netflix and watch while I cook or bake. When we have people over, I’ll just use recipes from my Women’s Health magazines to change things up and try new food and ingredients.

We cook in larger amounts to last us two to three days. When we’re not at our part-time jobs, we’re working from home, writing, or doing stock stuff. Having delicious, nourishing food at the ready kills the need to nosh on junk food. Additionally, when you’re well-nourished, you don’t need to eat as much. I used to be a junk food junkie, but I know that proactively eating healthy will lead to a longer, healthier life. I still eat sweets and junk food once in a while, but it’s no longer a staple in my shopping bags.

If the life-extending, artery de-clogging way I eat grosses you out, I apologize! As much as I want to pursue wealth, I want to be healthy and youthful enough to enjoy my money for years to come. Many people find that the healthier the food choices they make, the more of their money they end up saving. How great is that?

Health IS wealth!

 

Couch Money

When I was a kid, my parents regularly threw house parties. My dad was a natural entertainer, always equipped with his guitar, electric keyboard, bongos, a healthy supply of drinking songs, and outrageous stories from his wild past. These weekend parties would go on until three or four in the morning.

At our parties, whenever things started to wind down, my younger brothers and I routinely helped to clean up so that our folks so could keep entertaining the guests who stuck around. ‘Clean-up’ typically involved putting away glasses and leftover food, collecting garbage, and doing dishes. When unmonitored, we fished out of ashtrays any cigarettes that were still burning and we smoked the rest to the filter. We used to pour unfinished whiskey and scotch into half-finished beer bottles to create wicked cocktails and dare each other to take sips. When our mixes became undrinkable, we poured in the cigarette ashes and switched out our dad’s beer while he was mid-song or mid-story. Suppressing giggles, we eagerly waited for him to pick up the wrong bottle and take a swig. That always got our dad’s attention, and it was usually bedtime for us after that.

As fun as our parties were, the day after was our favourite part. We’d sit on the couch while watching TV with our little arms jammed down the sides of the cushions to fish for money. Our dad’s drinking buddies never failed us with their loose pockets full of change. We always took off to the store with our found coins to buy candy. I fondly recall these hilarious times, and I realize that I regard money differently based on how I got it. I have a different emotional connection to found money, prize money, given money, earned money, and invested money–I believe it’s this way for everyone.

My loving, liberal, supportive parents were financially stressed people. Not because they didn’t earn much, but because they had a complicated relationship with money–one I never got close to understanding. I believe each person’s relationship with money varies from healthy, neutral, stressful, troubled, to toxic. This relationship isn’t entirely based on the numbers in your account. When I started earning my own money, I realized–with some unexpected guidance–that money management could be simple and uncomplicated.

Work

Fun at my first job! Me (left), my boss, Joelle (middle), and my co-worker, Akiko (right)

I remember how at my first full-time job, getting paid was like finding couch money. As soon as the money was in my account, I ran to the store and bought candy (hey, I was still in my teens) and other frivolous things. After months of working I still had no savings and I actually thought this was normal because that’s how I grew up. My caring boss at work noticed my spending habits and urged me to think about saving up for university and retirement. As I resisted with excuses, she insisted with simple solutions. From that point, my attitude toward my earned money shifted and it became a regular practice for me to divide my pay to cover my bills, future goals, and having fun.

Life has gotten much more expensive since I was young and starting out. Even if you’re already sensible with your money and have some stashed away, you need more money than ever in order to pay for university, buy a house, and save for retirement. The focus is now turning to investing because the good habits and the simple solutions we used to rely on just won’t cut it alone. Despite these mounting financial pressures, I still experience a thrill very similar to finding couch money, but an even better and more satisfying one: it’s when I see the growing returns of the hard-earned money I’d set aside and invested. I only hope it’s a similar experience for anyone who invests.