This Minimalist Moms Approach To…Groceries & How We Saved BIG

Ok. This blog is all about being open and honest and being able to share with you our journey towards a more simple and minimalist life. When I say our journey…many of you associate this with our recent big move and downsizing. However, there is a list of reasons as to why we chose a more simple lifestyle. The benefits for us living this lifestyle is weaved into earlier posts throughout this blog. Bottom line, we want to enjoy life, do what we love, get more time back with our family and friends, travel more and have financial freedom.

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Did you know that stats Canada reported that the average Canadian household spends an average of $241 per person per month on groceries? so if you did the math, a family of five is spending on average about $1200 a month on food.

Here is the problem…up until a few months ago, I was well above the average.  Here is where the honesty part comes in…I spent about $2000-$2500 a month on groceries.

When I did the math, turns out we were spending about $400 per person per month in our little Canadian Battistessa household. Almost double the Canadian average. This was a huge eye-opening moment for me. We spent about $500 a week. Up until then, I was always the first to say that it didn’t matter what we spent on our groceries, food is food, health is health, Italians are Italians…lol..we live to eat. This seemed reckless and ridiculous when I really thought about it. How often I would throw produce out or had things I really didn’t use or need in the pantry.

Again this is about honesty and not judgment. We had the funds and I basically bought whatever I wanted…without even considering the price or if there was a sale on a generic brand…I just bought and I know…deep down inside…some of you, many of you do the exact same.

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When I started on this minimalist lifestyle I had some big and ambitious ideas for my family. Ideas that require income. The income we didn’t exactly have because I didn’t realize we were eating away at our goals!

So if you know me…you know how much I am anti-debt. Exactly a year ago I got my own credit card for the first time in just under 20 years (other than the one I had when I was 18, that my dad cut up after he paid the $500 bill I couldn’t afford, oh good times…).

I don’t believe in debt. I believe that if you want to eat out someplace fancy, if you want to travel someplace cool or if you want to buy something pretty… then you got to have the cash in the bank for it. If not, the truth is you can’t afford it. That’s just me.

So if the debt wasn’t our problem and getting into debt to live a happier richer life…isn’t in the cards, where could we trim in our budget? After reflecting long and hard, there really wasn’t any room to cut. We already had a pretty conservative monthly budget and a great savings plan for school and retirement that I wasn’t going to touch. Except, THERE IT WAS…staring me down, the one line that kept creeping up, the grocery monthly allowance.  The grocery line that read $2000. Something we easily went over every month.

Where things start to change

After reflecting on our budget I really began to wonder if we were overspending on food? See the thing is, I often spoke to other moms with 3 kids at home too and they would share how they easily spent $500- $600 that week alone at stores like Costco or Superstore. I already questioned myself and my grocery spending habits but they seemed to be in line with what everyone else was spending around me. Other families would share with us how they tried to trim their weekly grocery spending and it just wasn’t possible.

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So I did some research. I looked at the stats, I read a ton, I found some blogs and I started to really reflect on what it was that I was doing so wrong. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. There had to be a way to eat healthily and not spend an insane amount on groceries a month. After months of tweaking, making some poor decisions and trying; I figured it out.  I had a plan.

The single biggest change

Meal plan. I can’t stress this enough. MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN!

Check your pantry, freezer, and fridge. See what you have. Plan your weekly meals. Go once a week and buy all you that you need. Be strategic. Become familiar with food prices and the cost of certain food items you love and can’t be without. Buy generic brands! Superstore has a great variety of clean and organic foods that are their brand. buy more fruit and veg…think about what is on sale versus what you might have on your list. Cook more vegetarian meals. IT IS POSSIBLE.

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People of the world, you will read this in every book, on every blog BUT it is just fact. It works! Meal planning and the tips above changed everything for us. In more than one way too. Not only were my grocery bills down by 40% (40% people!) but my family now argues less about food! Not sure if this happens in your house but my boys would take so much time contemplating and arguing over what was for breakfast. That all changed once the Meal Plan got posted in the kitchen. We plan for breakfasts and dinners. (lunches are more flexible with leftovers and bento boxes). The kids know exactly what to expect. There are no changes, there is no arguing. It is what it is. Surprisingly my boys are actually eating way healthier too. They are eating a ton more fruit and vegetables. Especially since there is a lot less processed snacks in the house and I am baking large, clean batches of snacks they can eat instead.

So just how much are we spending now? Here is the proof. My last two grocery bills were $251 and $257. HUGE! and believe me, we are not missing out on a single thing. We are a family of five. Three boys, BIG boys (my 16-year-old is 6 foot 3) and two adults. We eat just as well, just as healthy and just as much as we did before. Once in a blue moon, I might put in an order online to a vegan store to buy some specialty items (as I am the only vegetarian in the house) these items might last me a couple months but I try to work it into the budget which went from on average 2000 a month down to 1100 a month! and we have been on track month to month this year!

That is a savings of about $11000 a year.

Let me repeat that —-> $11,000 !!!! 

JUST from food. Now, this savings definitely aligns with my families plan to travel more…do more…eat out more…without anything less.  Now if I am being super HONEST….it doesn’t get better than that so we can do more of this…

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Have any more great tips and tricks to save on groceries? or maybe a good recipe that is easy, healthy and inexpensive?  Please comment and share below!

till the next post,

moveplaymom

 

 

 

INVITATIONS TO PLAY. DINO DIG.

This week we’re exploring dinosaurs and dino digs. My boys really enjoyed this invitation to play. it was super fun and really easy to set up. The boys spent over an hour emersed in learning and play. I got some time back to get errands done around the house. The clean up took five minutes!

I would suggest creating a dino dig kit at clean up time. so next time it’s easy to pull out again.

I added books to this play idea. You can grab books at the library or use some dino books you have at home (I’m yet to meet a family who doesn’t have a dino book at home). The books encourage the boys to dig a little deeper (no pun intended!) During their play, they had lots of great questions about fossils, paleontologists, carnivores versus herbivores. The books were a wonderful additional resource. The play and books brought my two boys together. This was fitting for my little guy and my 9-year-old.

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What you need:

  • A tray
  • play sand (or you can easily use whatever you got in your pantry! rice, lentils, beans)
  • rocks and/or gems
  • wood and/or twigs
  • A few plastic dinosaurs
  • a measuring cup
  • a couple of small containers
  • a scoop or spoon
  • a small paintbrush
  • optional – books related to the play

let me know how it goes! Send pictures or post them on Instagram and tag me!

till the next post & remember to play,

moveplaymom.

Renovations Series. The Exterior.

Setbacks….I know I know….we should have expected it. But seriously, I couldn’t have imagined we would run into this much. Some of it was out of our hands and some of it is totally on us.

The weather hasn’t exactly been on our side for this part of the renovation. It’s amazing how quick we turned the inside around…but the exterior is a different story and is taking much longer than we had hoped for. Typically Calgary gets a number a Chinooks throughout the winter months. Allowing for a week or two of work outside. Are you not familiar with the great Chinook Winds? it’s what makes our long long long winters tolerable.

Usually, Calgary has a longer than average winter, starting in Late October and sticking around till March, April, and yes…I have seen snow here in May (I joke that we have two seasons here, winter and summer). But the winters are mild. Much more mild than any winter I had growing up in Montreal. The winters in Calgary hover around the -5 to -10 (celsius people not Fahrenheit) but when a Chinook rolls in overnight the temperature will rise to +10 or +15!

We typically have hardly any snow and  you will find lots of brown grass and amazing big blue skies. These Chinooks can stick around for a few days or up to a couple of weeks. Throughout the winter we can see up to a dozen short or longer Chinooks. Ben has been golfing in February on several occasions. NOT THIS YEAR.

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Setback Numero 1

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Not this year. We have more snow than ever before, RECORD BREAKING. It has been cold and it has been never ending! NO CHINOOKS (maybe 1-2 early in the season). Our trades were lined up and ready to jump on the job but every time the day showed any promise of better weather…suddenly it would snow! AGAIN. Boooooooo!

 

Setback Numero 2

When we bought this house we had to replace a bunch of windows. We also planned to add some windows. We had to wait till the exterior project got started before we could put the new windows in. One, in particular, was replacing and adding to the window in the office area to add more natural light.

THIS turned out to be a huge setback and maybe a small case of “he said she said”. Back in September when we were measuring to order our windows, Ben and I sat together, took measurements together (a first for us and not something you want to mess up, enlist in some help if you are unsure about this one). We got the measurements right…but we got the window ordered the wrong way. And here’s the thing with windows, you can’t open them from the outside, haha. funny now.

The worst part about this was that I double checked the whole order form, followed by Ben. we both missed it and we didn’t even knot it until way after we hassled the window company a million times for being late, late, late and super late. Only to have the window arrive WRONG!

Not only did the window take forever to get here…but now we ordered it the wrong way! AHHHHHHHHHH nightmare! The trades were lined up to come in and when they started to get the job ready we all realized the issue. Major financial booboo. Take note people! Now we had to pay the window install guys for coming in, setting up and getting ready AND we had to REORDER THE WINDOW! OMG. In hindsight it’s funny. During the moment…not so much. So to save some of the costs, Ben got to help out last week and learn how to put in a second story massive window. Did I mention he’s afraid of heights?

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New office windows after they were just put in! good job honey!

Setback Numero 3

I addition to the challenging winter and window debacles. Ben and I keep or kept…maybe keep…flip flopping on what we want to do to the exterior. We have had too much time now to change our minds. Over and over again.

Curb appeal is huge! and as a realtor and house flipper, my husband knows this and wants to get it right. I completely agree with him on that…and that’s about it! haha. At first, we were thinking classic, or arts and crafts but maybe a twist of modern. We wanted to take into consideration the neighborhood and community but we also wanted to make a statement…to encourage the community to continue with revitalization. (it’s a much older community).

 

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Meet Scott. He can do just about anthing! The best!

 

It’s been a such a struggle trying to figure out exactly what it was/is we wanted/want to convey. Our exterior defines our interior. It’s the initial thing you see when you pull up to our house. This house has so much meaning to us. Sure we flipped homes before, we bought and renovated…but this house we know is THE forever home. We need to make sure to follow our hearts and combine our unique but simple sense of styles to create an amazing space that we love inside and out.

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Stef was amazed by the crane lifting the new shingles!

So here we are. The weather has slightly improved and new windows are in. We ripped off all the old cedar exterior from 1979. Of course, during this stage, we ran into some obstacles (which we accounted for and so should you when you are renovating an oldie) such as rotten wood that needed replacing. The roof shingles have been delivered and we have a guy who has started on the eavestrough, soffit, and fascia.

 

I am sharing some of the inspiration we have for the exterior here. Ben and I have finally come to some design agreements. We wanted to carry the feeling of the simple, clean, white and modern look to the outside but still add some wood accents, pretty lighting, and charm.  Looking forward to the next reno post and giving you a peek into siding choices, soffit colors, wood accents and garage door choices. The below pictures were taken off the Becki Owens Instagram account. I love following her and her design ideas are really inspiring. Here are a couple of the pictures we are using to help guide us…

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Now let’s all cross our fingers and hope that this winter is over soon!

Till the next post

moveplaymom.