It's that time of year again when we are all freaking out about filing our taxes. Every year since I have moved to Quebec I have been whalloped with taxes! Seriously. Like smack in your face, punch in your gut, where the heck do you expect me to come up with that kind of money type taxes...(that's what you get for working in a different province and then bringing income across the border into another one...) but as the French here say, "c'est la vie"! I have learned to set up a savings account separate from all other expenses and put money away off each paycheck so that when the tax man comes calling in the spring I have some set aside (phew!!) ....This year the jury is still out on how deep into my pockets I will have to dig (haven't filed yet). Mind you, for the first 10 months of 2010 I was on maternity leave on reduced salary and my husband and I bought a second house that we rent out so I am unofficially a "business owner". But I'm not holding my breath that either of those things will help out too much....LOL forever the cynic I expect another bill in the couple thousands like usual.
So with money in mind (the dreaded B word) got tossed around recently. Dan and I both work full time (he owns his own General Contracting Business and I work at the hospital)we have never followed a strict 'B'udget, we don't set ourselves "allowances", we always have paid our bills on time and other than our mortgage and car payments we don't have debt. However we have started to try paying a bit more attention to where we spend and how much so that we can grow our savings a bit more.
For Lent this year we gave up ALL online shopping...well let me rephrase that...I have given up all online shopping. Dan isn't a shopper and I'm pretty sure I'm addicted! Not having to leave my house and with a single click have things delivered to my front door is addictive to me! LOL! I have to admit, it's been super tricky! Between Scrapbooksteals and Amazon a big chunk of my expendable income seems to disappear pretty quickly every month! LOL! But I have been good, 18 days in and not one single thing has been bought using a computer or mobile device :) I estimate that I have saved about $150 so far! (maybe more)
Another way we have started to save money (and this is not a new concept) is to follow a menu plan during the week. Too often I go grocery shopping and have to scrape my jaw up off the floor when I see my total...especially once I'm home and I unpack my behemoth amount of food to then wonder what the heck can I make for dinner?! What did I actually buy?! LOL I'm sure there must be others like me out there that come home from a shop to look down at all the groceries and think "What did I actually buy?". I do look at flyers and am pretty good at cutting out coupons and buying things when they are on sale but I don't plan ahead so the groceries that I "saved" on don't really go together so I end up making a 2nd trip during the week to fill in the gaps...so really what did we save?
Back in college I used to live on $20/week on groceries!...I was a starving student and new how to stretch a dollar to it's furthest! Mind you there was less fresh fruit and veg in my diet but for a year it did the trick for a non working full time student living away from home. So how did I stray so far away from my old habits?! Although having a husband and son who are both bottomless pits when it comes to food does not help ;) Oliver devours all fresh fruit and vegetables more than anything else we serve to him, we could buys shares in bananas and blueberries!
Two weeks ago I was browsing the Kraft Canada website. I use this website quite a bit to find meal ideas and I also subscribe to their magazine. I came across their "1 Bag 5 Meals" section which does not directly advertise that this is a tool to save money on groceries, it focuses more on just having 5 meals for the week using the same ingredients in different combinations so that you're not buying half the store!
Ok seriously?! This is brilliant for me! We have followed two different plans (two 1 week menus) and we have basically cut our grocery bill nearly in half! (yes I say this and feel embarrassed for being such a poor shopper!) The recipes have all been fairly easy to prepare and I always add my own twist on most them, more seasoning and always more vegetables. The "Friday" meals always seem to be Velveeta with noodles or Kraft Dinner, I guess fridays are easy end of the week meals...I refuse to serve Kraft Dinner as a meal, especially dinner(we were never allowed to eat it as kids and I really truly hate the stuff...homemade Mac n Cheese, sure!) But we have had leftovers usually from one of the other nights so we have that instead :) I also don't follow the recipes word for word...if they say to use a jar of plain pasta sauce, I will thaw out some spaghetti sauce that I have made myself (plus that way it sneaks in some more veg!) and instead of buying the name brand ingredients, for certain things I find the store brand is just as good.
Week 1 we followed Chicken and Pork Bag #4
Week 2 we followed the new Vegetarian Bag(we found out that week that Oliver ADORES black beans! LOL)
Week 3 (this week) we're going to use Chicken and Beef Bag #2
In all I think there's over a dozen "Bags" to choose from so we're going to slowly go through them and keep the ones that are our favourites and try to keep using them on a regularly basis, at least until I can get into the habit of trying to plan our meals a bit better on my own! LOL