Monday, November 12, 2012

Frugal Food - 5 Ways to Get Cheaper Produce

5 Ways to Get Cheaper - Frugal! - Produce

We all know that even on a frugal budget, we still need to eat healthy foods. Of course, that means that we need to include as many fruits and veggies as we possibly can. But, what is a frugalite to do? It seems that fruit and vegetables are becoming more and more expensive all the time (along else!) So, here are five new frugal tips on how to buy fruit and veg for less.

  1. Grow it. For some of us, this isn't an option. But, for most of us we can grow at least a few fruits and veggies to supplement our food supplies. I'm a (happy!) apartment dweller, and some years I've had some success with growing veggies in containers. If you have a yard of your own, then a garden is the obvious way to grow your produce. Aim to produce the veggies and fruits that you can easily freeze, can, or otherwise keep on hand for longer.
  2. Check for markdowns. Get familiar with when your local supermarket marks down their produce. (This is not the time to be shy, frugalites! Ask the workers in the produce department when the produce gets reduced.) Certain items - like bananas - are marked down often, since they go off quickly. Bananas can easily be frozen in chunks for smoothies. Or, mash those nasty bananas in 1-cup portions in freezer bags and you're prepared at any time to whip up some fresh and yummy banana bread or muffins. Other overripe fruits like pears or peaches can similarly be mashed and are excellent for baking.
  3. Get stuff from friends and family. No, I'm not exactly suggesting that you become a big moocher. (hardy har har.) But, when your pals have extras, don't be embarrassed to take it, and gladly. Or, you could do a swap.
  4. Farmers markets - sometimes. It just depends on where you live. Sometimes, farmers markets are a fantastic way to save money on your fresh produce. Other times, farmers markets are actually far more expensive than the grocery store. This is where knowing your prices really helps - you'll know quickly if you can find true bargains at local markets.
  5. Stock up on sales items. Fresh berries, peaches, and other fruits are great when frozen. Again - these make for quick and handy options for smoothies. (Minus the $5 price tag that most smoothie joints charge!) Ditto for veggies on sale...if the price is fantastic, then stock up and freeze or can those little vitamin-packed babies up! (I'll be totally honest -- I'm not a canner by any means, but even I can freeze with some finesse.)
There you have it! Five ways to inspire you to save on the healthiest ingredients in our diets - fruits and veggies. Have some more ideas? Post a comment!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dollarama Chronicles: The Good and the Bad

I really enjoy a bit of a jaunt around the local Dollarama. I realize that some people hate dollar stores, feeling an ethical tug due to the ultra low prices and how the products are nearly all produced overseas. I don't buy a ton of stuff at the dollar store, but I have to admit that I do love to buy certain products there, especially at Dollarama. Here are three things I love to buy at Dollarama, and a few things, well, not so much.

Good Things to Buy at the Dollar Store
1. Office supplies. Yes, the quality at certain dollar stores might be dubious at best, but I find that Dollarama really does have a good selection of certain office supplies. I like to buy sticky notes (generic Post Its) there, along with tape, and pens and pencils.
2. Greeting cards. They might not be ultra fancy, but buying greeting cards at the dollar store really makes sense. Instead of the $4 and up you can buy at a greeting card store, you can get a nice card for a buck. I really like it when I can snag a multi-pack of cute Thank You cards (or even blank cards with pretty fronts) for just a dollar. Score!
3. Name brand items. I hate to give away a great secret, but Dollarama here in Canada has recently had some pretty awesome brand name items for $3 or less. Yardley lavender soap from England (and yes, I checked the box and product before buying to make sure they were the real thing - they are) is only $1 a bar! Incredible! They sell for at least $3 in other locations. And, I bought a lovely big container of name brand apricot body wash (I can't remember the name now, and I'm done with the bottle! lol) for $2.50 and it lasted me for absolutely ages. You can sometimes treat yourself with a brand name for way less at a dollar store.

What I'm not so keen to buy at a dollar store
1. Certain food items - for instance, I tried the peppermint tea at Dollarama recently. I was on an uber frugality kick, meaning that I kicked up my natural frugality a few notches and started doing the unit price thing a lot more regularly. But, the peppermint tea was not very refreshing, to say the least. I'll give a pass on Dollarama tea, called 'D Gourmet.' lol I learned a valuable, minty lesson that day. I'll stick to my regular herbal teas, which still only cost around a dime a cup to brew. On the other hand, I love buying a big bag of SmartFood popcorn at Dollarama for only two bucks - it's my favorite snack food by far.
2. Electronics. Now, I'm not electronics or technological whiz. In fact, I often think I'm more like an old lady two and a half times my age! But, I know that little gizmos and gadgets likely aren't such a great idea from the dollar store.
3. Kids toys. Be careful, as certain parts might be a danger to small children in dollar store toys.

The dollar store is a great way to stretch our budgets. What DO you buy at them, and what do you REFUSE to buy there?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Frugal Tips and Hints - Pay with Cash

Why does paying with cash make a difference, and cause you to spend less?
No matter what method you use - envelopes, jars or other ways to stash your cash - it just seems to help us spend less if we have actual, physical money in our hands as opposed to credit or debit cards.

Maybe you can't use cash for every single transaction right away - so make it a goal to do what we've been doing recently - take out a certain amount of cash each week for just your weekly groceries. When the money runs out, you have to make do with the groceries you have left at home! You'll be amazed by what a difference it makes to your overall budget if you use cash more, and other (admittedly convenient) ways to pay - such as using credit cards - way less.

What do you think? Does paying with cash help you to spend less overall? Post a comment and let other frugalites know!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Frugal recipes: Gluten free bread pudding

Since going gluten free a few years ago, I've found that our grocery costs have gone up. The problem with gluten free foods are that they tend to be 2-3 times more expensive than traditional foods! There are some ways to get around this - try to use naturally gluten free foods more, instead of always heading to the gluten free section of the supermarket.

For now, I realize that I have some Udi's gluten free bread (the BEST gluten free bread around, in my humble opinion) that is sitting getting stale in my refrigerator. So, instead of wasting those slices of bread, I'm going to cube them up, and then make a custardy type mixture of milk, a couple of eggs, a squeeze or two of honey, a splash of vanilla and some frozen blueberries I have and tossing the whole mix together.

I'm going to bake it in a buttered baking dish - and see how it turns out! I love experimenting with food and creating my own recipes on the run. :) I'll post about how my frugal gluten free blueberry bread pudding turned out. Now...if only I had some ice cream to top it with...

Definition of Frugal

What is the real definition of the word 'frugal'? While it might mean many things to those of us who identify ourselves as frugalites, the proper dictionary definition is as follows: "Sparing or economical with regard to money."

I like that. Economical or frugal always sounds a bit nicer, a bit friendlier than that other often used word - cheap. When you say you're frugal, people might roll their eyes a little, but if you say you're cheap, well, you're opening a whole new argument...

So, how do you frugalites feel? Are you proud to call yourselves frugal? Do you agree with the above definition of frugality? Have you always lived a frugal life, or is a new lifestyle for you?

Frugal Gift Ideas: Gift of Your time and help

No matter what type of gift you need to give, many of us frugalites (whether frugalites by nature, or frugal due to necessity - ie: while paying off our debts) worry about the cost of a nice gift.

With that in mind, here is a great gift idea that costs you absolutely NOTHING, not one single penny. Instead of purchasing a gift that your recipient might or might not even need, why not give them some of your time instead?

Ideas for Gifts of Time include:

  1. A free night of babysitting (or petsitting)

  2. Watching their favorite movie together, when they choose. There's nothing better than a movie night!

  3. Coupon for a 'heart to heart' conversation over coffee. Make it more frugal by having your pal over to your place and making the coffee instead of splurging on takeout coffees.

  4. Coupons for a free errand service - offer free grocery shopping service, free drycleaning pickup, etc.

  5. Free car wash - you'll come and clean their car when they choose!

  6. And...with cleaning in mind, why not offer your friend or family member a day of housecleaning service for free? :) I know I'd LOVE if a pal gave me a day of their cleaning services. What a great gift that would be!

Use your imagination and come up with a valuable gift of your time that your loved one will really be able to use and appreciate. You might find this to be an easy way to take care of gifts without spending any money, but just offering a bit of your time.