Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Category: Lifestyle Tips (page 1 of 2)

My Five Favourite Meat Substitutes

We all know meat is expensive.

Yet somehow, most of us just keep buying it and complaining about it. I know I do sometimes.

Today’s blog is about hope. About doing something about the thing we complain about. Here is the solution: do something different. Don’t just keep buying something you hate paying for. Make a change!

Fred and I have been on a tight grocery budget for years as we have been paying down our enormous pile of debt. We only spend $60 a week on food. That means we need to be creative with our protein, especially here in the Great White North where things are more expensive!

We try to do at least one meatless meal per week to cut down on grocery costs. We don’t really like tofu, so we’ve learned to use some things that are a bit tastier for us but still pack a protein kick. Here are some of our favourite meat substitutes so we still have enough protein in our diet to get out of bed in the morning.

Cheese

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 08 40 PM[We aren’t fancy cheese people. Judge our No Name marble cheese all you want, but we like it.]

It seems simple, but cheese is a great protein source, and so good! You can use it to make your own healthier version of Kraft Dinner (Mac and Cheese) or put a pile of it on a baked potato. We also like to put cheese in potato soup, cream cheese in certain chili recipes, and sometimes just eat cheese and crackers. It’s fantastic.

Lentils

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 07 52 PMLentils seem kind of weird, like something hippies would eat. They probably do…they know how to get protein on a budget! Lentils are a great source of protein (25g per 1/2 cup – that is three times more than a cup of whole milk!), and they don’t have much flavour, which means they pick up on the flavour of things around them. The easiest way to get lentils in your diet is in soup or stew – make a big pot of lentil veggie soup and cook up some biscuits to go alongside – cheap and hearty!

Chickpeas

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 10 55 PMI devoted an entire blog to chickpeas where I teach you how I buy chickpeas in a giant bag (for $5), cook them in batches in my crockpot, and use them all the time. Each cup of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) packs 12g of protein. Our favourite ways to use chickpeas are instead of chicken in stir-fry, and to replace some meat in our crockpot chili recipes. You can barely taste them, and they keep you full for hours!

Beans  

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 09 15 PMSimilar to chickpeas, I also buy bags of uncooked beans, cook them in the crockpot, and keep them in freezer for when I need them (this picture is a jar of frozen black beans). Beans have endless possibilities – you can use them on salads, in quesadillas, in chili recipes, or to make a tasty dip for chips or tortillas. If you want to get really creative and unconventional, I’ve heard good reviews of using black beans to make gluten-free brownies or to make your own burger patties. Choose your level of comfort with this magical fruit.

Eggplant

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 10 20 PMThis isn’t my go-to meat substitute, but one I have used before. I bought the eggplant in this picture for $1 and used it in a batch of spaghetti sauce instead of beef. Eggplant has the feeling of being more substantial, and like lentils and chickpeas, soaks up the flavour of whatever is around it. Easiest way to incorporate eggplant in your meal plan is Italian food – spaghetti, lasagna, and other pasta dishes.

These are a just a few of my simple suggestions for meat substitutes. I’d love to hear from you – you’re welcome to leave a comment below to share your own meatless ideas!

Ways I’m Practicing Thanksgiving This Christmas Season

Photo 2015-11-27, 8 45 09 AMAs an American living in Canada, I have the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving day twice (and having a wonderful reason to eat a big turkey meal with loved ones in October and November)!

This year, I realized that I want to practice Thanksgiving not just on those days set aside and given to us off of work, but always. Especially with Christmas coming up.

This realization came mainly as I was planning my Christmas present list. I LOVE giving gifts (probably one of my main love languages) and last year Fred and I spent way more than originally planned. Sure, we budgeted for it and paid cash for everything, but we definitely wished we had planned better. Giving gifts is wonderful, but there has to be a better way to appreciate those we love in our lives rather than overspending and under-planning, right?

I was also thinking about what I wanted to buy with my own Christmas money that I would likely receive and started feeling frustrated. Instead of thinking how nice it would be to have a little money to spend on something for myself, I started thinking about how it wouldn’t be enough to buy everything that I wanted.

TIME OUT.

I couldn’t believe I had slipped into such a greedy place. It shocked me enough that I knew that I needed to pause and reflect. I like to fancy myself very content, frugal, and appreciative. However, as a person living in a North American context, it’s so easy to get caught up in being focused on material things. Especially as Christmas approaches, greediness is not only culturally okay, but even encouraged (I write this on Black Friday – a prime example of this).

I realized that I often forget about being thankful. Thankfulness is the best cure for greediness in my experience – and this Christmas season, here is how I am going to practice the art of giving thanks to combat greediness:

1. Giving away what I don’t need or use. 

This has been my new favourite thing lately. I’ve been going through clothes, drawers and closets to find things that I have just kept because I forgot about them or wanted to keep them “just in case.”

So far I’ve given away a few boxes of things that I definitely don’t need and have freed up some valuable space in our conservative apartment. It feels amazing to get rid of things – you should give it a try!

2. Appreciating what I have.

Once you get remove the things that you don’t need from your home, you’re left with the things that you actually use and you can appreciate them more. I find that if I think about using the things that I actually have rather than focusing on what I don’t have, I am more thankful.

Photo 2015-11-27, 8 57 00 AM3. Celebrating progress.

As Fred and I continue to pay off our debt  (with just $21,726 left to pay out of over $95,000!) I am choosing to focus on what we have accomplished instead of being frustrated with what we still have left to pay off.

I shared on social media how we paid off my U.S. student loan last month and never wrote a full blog to commemorate it. Today I share that I am thankful that we have paid off this $22,596.75 loan in just under 5 years. (This would be over $30,200 CAD with the current exchange rate.)

This is a huge accomplishment and instead of thinking that we still have one loan left to go, I need to remember we have paid 5 out of our 6 loans. For that, I am thankful.

4. Making my Christmas gifts.

Instead of just buying something and checking something off a list, I am making the majority of our Christmas gifts this year. It reminds me how thankful I am for the person I am giving it to, rather than just giving them something that I “picked up.”  (Bonus budget tip: This is also a great way to save money as homemade gifts usually cost less if done right!)

Fred and I affectionately call these my “Christmas crafts” (inspired by Dave Ramsey telling people to “make Christmas a craft” when paying off debt.) In addition to saving money, I am actually having so much fun and am more thankful for people as I spent more time making something for them!

5. Focusing on being thankful instead of on what I don’t have. 

This is the main thing that keeps me thankful. Sometimes I look around my house and say out loud “I am thankful for my chair and couches that I didn’t pay for” or “I am thankful that I have a nice place to live.” (Side note: Our lovely ’70s couch featured in this blog’s title picture. It just seemed right.)

Just acknowledging out loud that you are thankful for something really shifts something in your heart and mind and I really believe it can change the way we view our circumstances. Feel free to give it a try today!

How do you practice thankfulness? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share with me. :) 

Day of Preparation

I don’t know about you, but I love days off.

I love being able to stay in my pajamas all day, in my house, where I can get all the things done that I want to do the other days of the week but often just don’t have time for.

I wanted to share with you some ways that I use my days off wisely as a “day of preparation” so I can set myself up for success for the rest of the week. Feel free to use some of these ideas!

1. Make a snack that you can eat throughout the week. 

This week I made some pumpkin bread (3 loaves!) so that Fred and I have something to snack on in the evenings or afternoons. (Check out this awesome recipe!)

Having something like this around the house allows me to keep going when I am hungry, because I have something quick that I can grab and enjoy.

Photo 2014-11-22, 1 23 06 PM

2. Make a large meal.

Today I decided to make a big lunch and dinner so that I can stock up leftovers for the rest of the week, making lunches an easy and fast part of my day, rather than a hassle. This saves time and drama throughout my week.Photo 2014-11-22, 1 25 15 PM

3. Put something in the freezer for later. 

I love to stock up on things in the freezer that will make cooking dinner in the future easier. Today I cooked up a large batch of ground beef which I will use later for soups, spaghetti, tacos, chili, or shepherd’s pie. Having it all cooked at once allows making a ground beef dinner even faster and easier in the future.

I’m all about planning ahead so that my future self can reap the benefits. Now that it’s cooked, I can just take a chunk from the freezer and bam! I’ve just saved myself 15 minutes in a future meal cooking time.Photo 2014-11-22, 1 10 52 PM

4. Work on a fun hobby.

I love to make candles (which I also sell), and it has been something that has been on the back burner this semester due to my busy lifestyle which includes full-time work, but I had someone place an order, which gave me an excuse to work on something that I love to do.

Adding something fun that I like to do makes me feel like I am not just doing things I “should be doing” but also doing something that gives me joy.

Photo 2014-11-22, 1 27 14 PM

I did all of these things today in about 3 hours, and I feel way more organized and ready to take on another busy week.

Give some of these things a try next time you have a day off. You just might love having your own day of preparation!

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Cook Like A Mom

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get overwhelmed trying to make dinner look like a Pinterest post.

I really like Pinterest – don’t get me wrong. I love getting new ideas and seeing all of the clever DIY ideas, but I know that with our grocery budget, we value cost and health over beauty.

Growing up, my mom always made simple dinners that were delicious, healthy and cost-effective. I thought that once I started making my own meals, I could follow this example and it would be the best way to go.

That’s when I realized that not everyone cooks like my mom.Photo 2014-06-25, 6 15 35 PM

Simple casseroles, crockpot meals, and family-style dishes are all well and good, but they are certainly not very “trendy” right now. Right now it’s trendy to have tasty and creative meals that are a step below gourmet, whether or not you’re on a budget.

When I cook meals, I think about how much it costs and how many leftovers it will make. I usually never make a meal that only has 2 servings. We don’t have the time to make small meals that don’t also function as lunch for the next day.

Now that my husband and I are both working full-time (a first for us in our marriage), we need to make simple, nutritious dinners that taste good and allow us to have left-overs that are necessary to keep ourselves on budget.

My “secret” is to to make large portions and then put them into individual portions so they are all ready to go for the next day. I don’t know if you can relate, but I am often in a rush in the mornings and need to be able to throw together a lunch quickly. Having your leftovers in ready-to-go portions saves time and effort in the morning.

So that’s my secret to share with you today.

Photo 2014-06-25, 6 16 02 PMHere it is in just three easy steps:

1. Don’t try to make your meals look perfect.

2. Make large, simple meals with several portions.

3. Put in individual containers for an easy left-over.

Bing, bang, boom. A simple way to make your life (and your budget) easier!

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Ode to the Library

Some people have been using one of the best free resources out there.

I wasn’t one of them.

I knew that the library was awesome, and that there were a lot of great things that you could check out, but I didn’t quite believe it or utilize it.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of books or movies, but I was missing out on the cornucopia that was available to me.

When we moved to Abbotsford, we realized we were a 5 minute walk from the library, and my dear husband encouraged me to go with him one night to check it out.

I fell in love that night.

I walked into the library and realized that there were a ton of free resources available! I could rent a movie, check out a book, learn about whatever I wanted to, and not spend a single dollar. It was mind-blowing.

Let me tell you some of the perks of and the resources that the library offers:Photo 2014-09-06, 5 57 01 PM

1. It’s FREE.

I know that sounds funny, because it’s common knowledge, but seriously people – FREE. When you are getting out of debt, this should be music to your ears.

2. Expansive book collection

This is what a library is known for – but for me, this has always been something I have loved. I could spend hours in a bookstore – I love that I can find books on any topic that I can read and learn from.

3. DVD collection

Okay – seriously – you can check out movies and seasons of shows from the library. We’re not talking just old movies – I rented some great movies and shows that have been released in the past 2 years that I either wanted to see or had seen and didn’t own.

I know that a lot of people have Netflix these days – but we don’t. So when we want to watch a movie, we go to a mom-and-pop video rental place and pay $1 or $2 – which is still a good deal compared to going to the theatre. But it can’t compare with free.

(P.S. We rented Downton Abbey – what could be better? They had all three seasons – that’s hours of fun right there!)

4. Exercise DVDs

I’m working on being more healthy and exercising more, and I’ll admit that sometimes I would rather not leave my house. But, I can rent DVDs that I can work out to in the safety of my own home. I can rent new ones all the time and not get sick of a workout. (Bonus: I can turn it off if I’m done – not worrying about walking/running home or driving home from the gym!)

5. Free internet

If you don’t have internet in your house, usually, you’d go to Starbucks, right? (I would/do when I need to.) Instead, you can get an hour of free internet access at the library. Total score. (No coffee buying required!)

6. Books on tape/CD

If you commute a lot and wish you had time to read books, consider books on tape! You can listen while you drive or transit, and “read” all those books that you’ve always wanted to get around to.

7. Bonus: Fraser Valley Regional Library

If you live in the Lower Mainland, all the FVRL branches are connected, so you can check out books/movies/resources from any branch in the LM.

So if you live near a small branch (like, cough, Walnut Grove), you can reserve books from other branches and not miss out on all the great things that are out there!

The Verdict

I’m in love with the library. I want to go every week.

I know that I’m usually really frugal, but I am working on saving money wherever I can. I believe that the library can help me fill the void inside of me that wants to rent movies and get new books without spending a penny.

Now that’s a good deal.

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How To Shop For Produce on a Budget

Note: This is part of the “How To – On a Budget” series. Click here to read more ideas for doing life on a budget (building a wardrobe,  having a baby, and giving gifts).

We’ve all heard it: “Get your 5-a-day!”Photo 2014-07-08, 6 18 49 PM

But let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to invest in produce when it seems so expensive.

Today I’m going to share with you some of my tips and tricks for shopping for produce on a budget so you can have a happy and healthy life and diet.

1. Shop local.

I usually shop at a local produce stand as opposed to picking up my fruits and veggies at whatever store I’m already in. The prices are better, and there are usually options to buy from local farms, which is cheaper than importing from other countries.

2. Shop discount. Photo 2014-07-08, 6 19 15 PM

I love the discount section! I have found some truly amazing things in this section. It’s usually on a shelf away from normal sight, so hunt for it or ask an employee. This is where the produce that is going bad gets put. Sometimes you find moldy and mushy things, but other times, you find things that still have a bit of time left in them.

This picture is an example of a really good day on the discount shelf. I got a bag of perfectly good tomatoes, delicious plums, just ripe mangoes, organic bananas, and local strawberries. Each item was $1.00 – total score!

If you do find some items that are only going to be good for a day or so, buy a bunch of veggies to make a stir-fry or make a batch of jam with ripe fruit.

3. Shop in bulk (for certain things). Photo 2014-06-25, 4 48 47 PM

I buy certain things in bulk that I know I will use and that won’t go bad. Some good examples are apples, potatoes, carrots, and onions. These items last a long time, and I use them on a regular basis. Make sure to store them in a cool, dry place or in the fridge to make sure they keep.

Buying things in bulk will save money. Take potatoes for example. Instead of paying $1.40/pound, I buy a 10 lb. bag for $3.50-$5.00. This lasts me a long time, and I pay 1/3 of the price with the bulk option.

4. Shop smart (don’t overbuy). 

Sometimes I get so excited about the discount section, or I want to try new things, and I buy too much. This wastes money if you let it sit in the fridge and it goes bad. I generally shop twice a month for produce, spending about $20-$25 each time. That means $40-$50 gets my family our 5-a-day for a month – what a deal!

Now it’s your turn! What tips and tricks do you have for shopping for fruits and veggies?

The One Cookbook You Need to Have

Photo 2014-07-30, 4 16 35 PMToday I’m going to recommend the one book that you NEED to have in your kitchen.

I have quite a few cookbooks, some that I use more than others, but this one surpasses them all in my mind.

My mom got me this cookbook shortly after I graduated from university and needed to start paying back my student loans. She knew I needed to learn how to cook good food on a budget. I’ve been in love with this cookbook ever since! 

This cookbook is called Healthy Meals for Less: Great-Tasting Simple Recipes Under $1 a Serving. It has tons of amazing recipes in it, and the thing I love most about it is that the ingredients are things that I actually keep in my cabinet.

I wish that I could buy you all a copy and send it to you, but alas, I cannot. So what I am going to do is recommend that you pick yourself up a copy. On Amazon, the Kindle version is just $8, and the cheapest used copy is only $4. Talk about a bargain!

I seriously use this cookbook all the time. Here are some of my favourite recipes:

  • Honey chicken (crockpot meal – I add sweet potatoes to the chicken and honey sauce – yum!)
  • Oven-roasted vegetables (the most tasty way to spice up carrots, potatoes and peppers)
  • Hot chocolate mix (that’s right – just 3 ingredients to make your own – saves a bundle on this tasty drink!)
  • Sweet potato soup (tasty, healthy, and inexpensive)
  • Biscuit mix (so helpful to have on hand to throw together for a complete meal)

This cookbook gives nutritional information along with average price to make the item. (It does use U.S. pricing, so it’s a bit different for those of us who live in the Great White North, but still a helpful pricing guide.) This helps me see the health and dollar benefits of each recipe. In addition, all of the recipes are very simple to make.

So if you get a chance or have a few dollars in your budget to get a copy, please do! You won’t be sorry.

Now it’s your turn! What cookbooks/kitchen books have changed your cooking style?

*Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. That means that if you use this link to buy this book through this link, I’ll get a little something to support the blog and our journey to becoming debt-free. No pressure to use it,  I just wanted to warn you! I was not compensated in any way to discuss this product.* 

How To Build A Wardrobe On A Budget

1796903_626695766306_7837435356870734377_oThis is a guest post written by my friend, Tessa Hughes. I asked her to write some tips for all of us who aspire to build a great wardrobe on a tight budget. She and her husband became debt-free last year, and she managed to keep up her fashion while paying off $19,000 in debt (and raising 2 kids)!

Tessa runs a styling company out of Vancouver where she helps people build great wardrobes on any budget. Check out her business and photo blog at  www.tessahughes.com

(This is post #3 in my “How To – On a Budget” series. Check out How to Have a Baby on a Budget and How to Give Gifts on a Budget for more inspiration!) 

8eedd7e2b8dd1d9c50581cb22260d391Building a wardrobe on a budget is not as hard as you might think– and it doesn’t have to involve wearing boring or ugly clothes, either. I’ve put together some basic do’s and don’t’s in order to keep it really simple.

I often find myself repeating the same basic “rules” to my clients when doing a wardrobe makeover, so they know how to shop when I’m not there to help them. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but more just helpful guidelines to keep you on the “straight and narrow” of good fashion on a budget:

DO…

1. Shop “fast fashion” for basics

Stores like H&M, Joe Fresh, Forever 21 and Zara often have fabulous basics in neutral colours for very affordable prices. Avoid super trendy items, and look for basic tees, tanks and jeans. You’ll find them at decent prices and you’ll avoid falling into any major fashion pitfalls.

2. Thrift leather

I’m a huge advocate of real leather (SORRY PETA!) but if you buy it thrifted, it’s more ethical, environmentally friendly, it will last longer, AND it’s light on your wallet! To me, that’s a win-win-win-WIN. Keep your eyes out for clean and simple leather pieces that are in good shape. Think wallets, handbags. If you’re willing to buy used shoes (some people aren’t), look for basic black, and check where they’re made. Any shoes made in Spain or Italy will be higher quality.

3. The designer sale rack 246d7cdc073124a44fe7e29a9b0f4de8

This one you really need to be careful with. Stick to really simple designs that are clean and timeless. The sale rack tends to be full of overly trendy items that can be a big mistake.

Again, basic colours are better (black, white, khaki, grey), and since sales are usually at the end of the season, it’s good to try and think ahead and buy items that will hopefully still be in style next year. Keep in mind if a certain item has been “hot” for a few seasons, it’s probably on it’s way out.

Hint for parents:

If you’re a little bit savvy, you can shop the sale rack at more expensive kid’s clothing stores like Gap and J.Crew one year in advance. For example, if you have a one year old, and it’s August so summer clothes are on sale, buy 2/3T from the sale rack for next summer.

Kids clothes are less trend-based and it’s great if you can get your hands on some higher quality goods because kids tend to really rip into their clothes (literally). This is a little bit risky because you never know if your kid is going to have a crazy growth spurt but this works well for kids ages 3-5, as kids’ growth slows down a little bit as they get older.

DON’T…

1. Buy something that doesn’t fit you perfectly because it’s on sale (or at the thrift store) thinking you’ll grow into it, lose weight, or get it altered.

That’s just a waste of money and it will probably end up collecting dust.

2. Get sucked into crazy trend items that are really cheap.

(Hellooooo Forever 21!). This is probably the most tempting thing, because when you’re in those types of stores, these are the pieces that seem so appealing: “Ohhh I’ll look so cool in that!” but you’ll probably get sick of it after a week. Stick to pieces that have longevity. Your wallet (and personal sense of style) will thank you for it.

3. Make a habit of buying ONLY fast-fashion.

This is the danger when you’re trying to live on a budget, but as a long-term plan it really doesn’t work. Always remember to try and save up for those bigger wardrobe basic items (like a great, black leather purse).

If you buy everything super cheap all the time, it doesn’t last and you end up spending three times as much over a few years because none of it lasted. Remember that quality, even if it costs more up front, will pay for itself in the end, by lasting much, much longer.

Last Tips & Resources

For those pieces you’d like to save up for, I’m including some resources of where to find what I call “affordable luxury.” These are stores that aren’t as expensive as high-end designer, but carry higher quality pieces that are worth saving up for:

For some specific ideas, here are some of my favourite wardrobe basics that I’ve collected on a Pinterest board.

Also feel free to check out my personal style blog, tessahughes.com, for more inspiration!

 

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How To Have a Baby on a Budget

This is a guest post written by my good friend Kristen Foley. She blogs about her life as a nurse and mother on her blog, Scrubs and Pastries. I’m excited for her to share her tips for how to have a baby on a budget, a phase in life I have yet to experience. 

Kristen and her adorable daughter Abreanna (Aby)

Kristen and her adorable daughter Abreanna (Aby)

My husband and I had a baby girl in January of this year. One day last summer when it was hot out and pregnant ol’ me needed a Slurpee, I glanced over at the magazine rack while paying for my treat. I saw a headline that made me stop in my tracks. “Million-dollar Babies.” – Mclean’s. I quickly opened the cover to find that the average cost of raising a child in Canada is $670,000! So, if I’m correct with my math and we have two children, that puts us at over a million dollars to raise them? That can’t be right! Can it?

The article is a good read actually and lays out costs you might have forgotten about along with predicted costs (so we don’t really know how accurate the predicted costs are). I can’t really speak to raising a “family” yet as we only have one child (and we aren’t paying for daycare/a nanny yet) and she is just five months old. I can, however, tell you ways that we have learned to cut costs and spend wisely with a baby.

1. Start lumping small amounts into a savings account when you find out you are expecting

We started saving small amounts every month for purchases that we knew we needed to make in the following months before the baby came. Having saved up a little at a time to buy bigger items (like a crib) helped us avoid putting a huge dent into our budget when the time came to buy something. This also helped us see how much was in the “baby fund” and to budget for items accordingly.

2. Buy some things second hand

It is amazing what you can find second hand. We have used sites like Craigslist and Bidwars as well as thrift stores and consignment stores (Once Upon a Child) to find bigger ticket items that are crazy expensive to buy brand new! We found a pack n’ play (playpen) second hand on a site called Bidwars for $25 dollars (that is usually $150 brand new!). We also bought our crib on Craigslist for $250. That sounds like a lot, but the crib converts into a toddler bed with a railing and a twin bed frame for down the road when she is older. It was also $600 originally.

3. Invest into big items

As stated above, our crib was a bit pricey, but it was a good investment because it will last our girl until she is well into her teens!

Are you planning to breastfeed? Maybe invest in a breast pump (that you can use for all of your children!) or a double stroller if you know you want to try soon for a second baby and will need to wheel around two young children.

4. Cloth diapering

Some people may be grossed out by the idea but it’s honestly not any grosser than using disposable diapers to me. They cost a bit of money up front (about $200-$300 – we were fortunate that ours were gifted) but can save approximately $300-$400 per year or about $1,200-1,500 per child until they are potty trained. Everyone has their own estimates about this, but let’s face it, cloth diapers (along with being green) DO save money!

5. Breastfeed

I could go into the many benefits of breastfeeding but I won’t.

Breastfeeding saves a ton of money (and is so good for your little one too!). Breastfeeding can save between $1,000-$3,000 per year (approximately) depending on the type of formula you use. There are costs to breastfeeding (buying a pump, nursing bras, nipple creams and reusable nursing pads), but those costs are one time and breastfeeding would still save you money in the long run over formula feeding.

Side note: I do, however, understand that it’s not always a reality for every woman to breastfeed and circumstances can make breastfeeding nearly impossible. What you might not know is that your local public health unit (in the Lower mainland at least) offers free one on one breastfeeding support with a nurse specialized in breastfeeding (often a lactation consultant) and there are support groups (La Leche League) in many areas all over the country to help moms who are struggling and/or need help/have questions.

Another side note: If you do buy formula, download the app “Checkout 51” and you could save money! This app gives you money back when you upload receipts with the items they have listed. I saw a Similac cash back offer for $5.00 this week if you purchased Similac formula (they have other great grocery items on there too).

6. Don’t go out and buy tons of toys and gadgets for baby right away

We learned this the hard way. We spent $50 on a swing (used and regularly $100) that our daughter ended up using twice because she didn’t like it. Instead, try out toys in the nursery at church or at a friend’s house to see if your baby likes it before you spend an arm and a leg on it!

One of her favourite toys at the moment is a $3.50 shape sorter we got from our local thrift store (which I kind of want to keep a secret because of how great of a store it is!). 

We get creative with play time. The other day I got out some plastic bowls and spoons for her to play with and she had a great time! We also read (appropriate) adult novels out loud, look at photo books together and play outside!

Play time doesn’t have to be expensive!

7. Avoid name brands whenever possible

Just the other day I asked my husband to pick up some breast milk freezer bags from the grocery store. The pack of name brand bags (50 count) usually costs me about $14.99 but he found the store brand breast milk bags at $6.99 for 50! Some cost comparison can go a long way!

8. Acquire some baby clothing in neutral colours/styles

Clothing shopping for girls is very fun but it can also break the bank. Everything is so cute! I have tons of items in pink/purple with lace and frills. I’m all set if I have another girl, but if I have a boy, I don’t have much to offer him!

have since learned that neutral colours and styles are helpful to reuse. I have some orange, green and yellow onesies that I plan on saving for future children.

To sum things up, having kids does cost money (and I’ve only just begun parenthood!) but there are ways to cut costs and save money along the journey.

Planning for expenses has been a big part of what has helped us stay on budget with a baby. We continue to put $50 aside each month for upcoming costs for our girl. A high chair is next!

What are your ideas for saving money while raising kids? I’d love to hear more from you!

You can also check out one of Kristen’s latest blog posts, 100 Fun Things to Do With Your Kids, for some other ideas on how to save with your children. 

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DIY Freezer Jam

This past week I bought 10 pounds of strawberries. My purpose? DIY jam! image

Some people get scared of making their own jam because they imagine standing over a huge pot, pulling jars out and waiting for the *pop* that tells you that your jars are officially sealed.

Today I want to share with you one of life’s greatest secrets: freezer jam.

My mother-in-law introduced me to freezer jam a few years ago (thanks, Lea!) and it has honestly been one of my favourite ways to save money. Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t go through a ton of jam in our house, but it’s one less thing that I need to over-pay for. (I’ll give you the numbers breakdown later on in the blog)

So, I took my 10 pounds of strawberries and made a ton of jam, which is now in my freezer, and will sustain us until next strawberry season. It’s so easy, and honestly tastes so much better than store-bought jam. I’ll share my tips and tricks with you so you can make your own jam!

First of all, you pick up your supplies. You’ll need: 

  • Fruit (you can use any kind, and any combos, but my husband is a plain strawberry jam kind of guy)
  • Pectin (I like Certo brand, but you can use any kind of freezer jam pectin)
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Jars (you can use plastic or glass jars, or even tupperware if you’re out of jars)

Photo 2014-06-25, 10 30 48 PMSecondly, you’ll want to use the instructions inside the pectin package. Each kind has slightly different instructions, so make sure to read them. I’ll tell you how I used the Certo liquid pectin that I picked up.

Third, you’ll need to crush your fruit. I used my Starfrit food processor to crush up my strawberries after I cut the tops off.  So fast and easy!

Trick #1: I use a Starfrit Manual Food Processor, a gift from my mother-in-law. It honestly makes crushing the fruit so easy! If you don’t have one of these, you can use a regular food processor or a pastry blender or potato masher (it just takes longer).

Photo 2014-06-25, 10 37 29 PMPhoto 2014-06-25, 10 38 15 PM

Trick #2: Chop all your fruit at once. It makes it easier, and your hands will get all sticky anyways, so it’s worth it to just do it all at once, crush it all at once, and just do each step at a time instead of chop, crush, chop, crush. I use a tall measuring cup or bowl to separate my chopped fruit.

Trick #3: Use a glass or metal bowl for fruit – a white bowl will be stained by fruit juice. 

Fourth, you’ll need to combine the fruit, pectin, sugar and juice in a particular order with a specific amount of stirring and waiting involved. Again, check your own instructions. (I definitely ruined a batch of jam once by thinking I knew the right order to add things. Whoops! I ended up using it as strawberry sauce for ice cream, so it wasn’t a total loss.)Photo 2014-06-26, 4 55 49 PM

Now, you just have to wait for your jam to set, and you’re done! Once it’s set you stick it in the freezer until you’re ready for it.So convenient!

Trick #4: Wash your dishes and clean your counters right away. Strawberry juice stains in minutes, so do yourself a favour and tidy as your jam is setting!

Okay, now the moment you’ve been waiting for: the price and time breakdown.

Time: 

Total time from first chop to dishes being done: Approximately 1 hour

Price for ingredients:

Sugar: $2

Pectin: $3 (for 2 pouches)

Strawberries: $6.67 (I bought a flat for $20 and used approximately 1/3 of it for this batch of jam)

Lemon juice: $0.25 (rough estimate)

Jars: $0 (I had a bunch in my cupboard, and because they don’t need to be sterilized for freezer jam, you can reuse with no worries!)

Total cost: $11.92

Total containers of jam made: 5 

Cost per container: $2.38 

Now, when I was in the store I looked at jam prices. Even if you go off-brand, you’re looking at $5 for a comparable container of jam.

Result? Better-tasting jam for 1/2 the price? Yes, please! 

I can’t recommend making your own jam highly enough! Give it a try – you just might like it.

Feel free to connect with Classy Frugality in one of the following ways: 

*Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. That means that if you use this link to buy the product I recommend, I’ll get a little something to support the blog and our journey to becoming debt-free. No pressure to use it, I just wanted to warn you! Also, I was not compensated in any way to discuss this product – I just really like it.* 

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