WEEK 4 Update and Wrap Up: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Three weeks (or a lifetime) ago now, I posted a grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read Week 1 here, Week 2 here, and Week 3 here. If you would rather skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 4 results and wrap up.

Preamble
This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I picked up last week. We still have some potatoes, onions and peppers left from that box – see the WEEK 3 Update for a picture of the contents. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 4 Update:

This fourth and final week went fairly well. Now that I’m well and truly on the right side of my gallbladder (the side waving goodbye to it!), I was able to reflect on some of my grocery shopping behaviour and I have come to realize that I may suffer from a semi-severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to great ‘stock up’ prices. Coupled with my resistance and aversion to paying regular price for groceries (or if I’m being honest, paying regular price for anything really), is one of my greatest struggles when it comes to strictly adhering to my (self-managed) grocery budget.

For example I have enough salsa to last a good while, but the one that we like does not go on sale terribly often, and while it is not a super expensive fancy brand, I do have that aforementioned aversion to ‘regular price’ so the it went on sale during Week 3, I bought 2 jars.

Similarly, when I check my weekly PC Optimum points bonus offers and receive a good offer and I find that I can pair it with a sale or good price-matching opportunity, I struggle to let it go and not take advantage of the offer, knowing full well that the item in question is definitely something that we not only will use, but it is something that we regularly run through quickly (like breakfast cereal, berries, milk or apples).

But I’ll stop the blathering and get to down to the nuts and bolts, the brass tacks, spill the tea, give you the skinny, ugh, just stop me – here are the numbers.

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual: $65.54
Result: (- $5.54)

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual: $30.16
Result: +$29.84

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $86.46
Result: (-$26.46)

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $70.69
Result: +$10.69

Monthly wrap up:
Spending Goal: $240.00
Actual Spent: $252.85
Difference: $12.85 – OVER BUDGET

Average Weekly Spend: $63.21
Average Weekly Overage; $ 3.21

So, I did not make my $60/week goal, but I’m still going to let the Fresh Prince dance for this one, because going over budget by $3.21/week is the equivilant to three heads of lettuce or four pounds of apples, which I cannot begrudge or regret at all.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

Now, I still am housing a very well-stocked pantry and full freezers that I would like to cycle through, so I will need to think on a good pantry/freezer challenge to tackle for June or July, we’ll see how the rest of this week goes.

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

WEEK 3 Update: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Two weeks ago, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read Week 1 here and Week 2 here. If you would rather skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 3 Update (spoiler alert, I bent the budget).

This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I picked up this week. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 3 Update:

The third week of May was a tad bit rollercoastery. Recovering from surgery, celebrating our wedding anniversary, having a long weekend (yay Victoria Day!) and celebrating a birthday (my baby girl is now nine!), I definitely faced some physical and budgetary challenges.

Also, I did end up buying pizza for the gang on our anniversary (Mama can’t eat things as lovely as pizza so going out for dinner seemed silly and cooking on my anniversary while also juggling a soccer practice? Um, no thank you. I did though decide to take that from my ‘gift’ category, since who says that every now and then pizza isn’t the greatest gift ever? It would appear that when in doubt or feeling sheepish, I call food a ‘gift’ and slide it right into that budget category, but perhaps that is an issue to explore another time?

Blah, blah, blah. Just stop procrastinating and spill. How did the spending go? Well, in a word, it went OVER.

Did not make special shopping trips, but still, spending money 5 out of 7 days is not cool.

What I did notice from the list above is that 48% of the entries are for produce, 24% for breads and grains, 14% for dairy and just 5% each for meat, fish and salsa. All this means is that of the 21 entries, 10 were for produce (although multiples of each item were usually purchased). This is not pertinent to the budget, more something that caught my interest and confirmed what I thought. This family runs on produce and bread. Lol! We also received our Good Food Box last week, which while not a ton of produce, definitely helped and much of it is already gone.

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual: $65.54
Result: (- $5.54)

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual: $30.16
Result: +$29.84

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $86.46
Result: (-$26.46)

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

As usual, I do have carry-over from the last week into this week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. This week I will need to buy milk, as I haven’t been stocking up on it (no PC Optimum bonus offer, no milk stock up – hurumph!). I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. This week I also have berries, pop and yogurt on my list (with some nice PC Optimum bonus offers), so I’ll be picking those up over the next few days.

If I can keep the spending to just under $60, I think I’ll have met the challenge’s objective and will be in good shape to move onto June’s challenge (which also involves food – go figure).

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Snickerdoodle Scone Recipe: A weekend and lunchbox treat – Family Favourites Friday recipe

When I first got married, I admit that I was not much of a baker. In fact, my husband could bake and cook circles around me. I could make enough food to keep people alive, but nothing really stood out as a ‘me’ thing. Over time and with lots (and lots) of practice, my cooking and baking got steadily better. My husband attributes this to my competitive nature and not being okay with not being the best in the house, lol. I don’t know, maybe he’s right, but whatever the reason or motivation, pretty much everyone in the house has benefitted from my dedicated practice to improve the quality, quantity and variety of dishes on offer.

For the next little while, I’m going to post a Family Favourite recipe every Friday. Weekends should be delicious, always. The recipe will not always be a dessert, but sometimes, it definitely will be. 😉

Week days are hectic and I’ve never been a big breakfast person, so generally it was cereal and fruit for the kids before school. On weekends, my husband liked a nicer breakfast: waffles, Johnny Bread (a Bermuda tradition), pancakes, bacon and eggs, typical breakfast fare. In the early years, he liked to prepare one of these things for everyone every other week or so. I suppose, being competitive, I didn’t feel good not being able to make anything special for everyone on the weekend mornings too. That’s where Snickerdoodle Scones make their simple, yet delicious entrance.

Just a few notes: I make these on the small side, so that there are more to go around and also leftovers to put into the lunches for a treat during the week. I have also doubled and tripled this recipe at times.

Admittedly, these are in no way a health food, but following the adage of ‘all things in moderation’ their smaller size makes them a perfect fit and lovely with a cuppa tea. Despite their sugary coating, they are not too sweet, just right, really.

Snickerdoodle Scones recipe
Perfection in the palm of your hand, are these right here.

Snickerdoodle Scones

Ingredients

For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp butter, chilled and cut into smaller pieces
6-8 Tbsp (start with 6) milk or cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Snickerdoodly coating:
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking liner.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar.
  4. Add the chopped butter and mix into the flour mixture, using either a mixer (like Kitchenaid) or with your fingertips, breaking the butter down into course, small pieces.
  5. Combine the milk and vanilla extract and add slowly to flour and butter mixture, starting with 6 Tbsp. Stir (or mix) until the dough comes together. It should be a very slightly sticky ball, not too wet and not a crumbly mess. Add additional milk/cream if needed, one Tbsp at a time.
  6. In a small dish (I use a 1 cup Pyrex container with a air-tight lid), combine the sugar and cinnamon. You will have plenty left over to use next time.
  7. Roll each ball of scone dough (a single recipe should typically yield 12 – 16 scones, depending on the size you opt to make), in the cinnamon mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet, flattening the ball slightly with your finger tips.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes (a bit longer if you like a crispier, darker bottom), until scones are set and begin to brown.
  9. Cool on wire rack a few minutes, serve warm or cold.
  10. Leftovers keep well for up to five days in an airtight container or ziplock bag. They also freeze and defrost well.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

WEEK 2 Update: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Last week, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read that post here. If you want to skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 2 Update. This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I will pick up later this month when it is available. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 2 Update:

The second week of May was a bit of a mess for us here. I have been battling gallstones all month and was scheduled for surgery. Friday brought an attack of pancreatitis secondary to gallstones which lead to my admission into the hospital that afternoon and my surgery was fast-tracked to Sunday evening. I came home on Monday morning. Needless to say, our stockpile and freezers came in very handy in keeping the troops fed during this unscheduled interruption. On the upside, I wasn’t able to do any grocery shopping until last night, so this week the total is nice and low! I will likely use that money to splurge to buy the crew pizza for dinner tonight (none for me and my battle-scarred carcass) to celebrate our anniversary (which is today, yay!).

Since I did end up spending about half of my budget last night though, I will list what I got for the money.

Food Basics:
5x 3lb bag macintosh apples – 1.67 each
2.07 kg red grapes – 2.80/kg
1.5 kg Barlett pears – 2.16/kg
Total spent: $17.36

Shoppers Drug Mart
2x PC snacks (clearance) – $.79 each
2x Danone yogurt (clearance) – $.59 each
1x 4L 2% milk – $4.39
3x 2L Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi – 3/$5
Total spent: $12.80

Grand Total – $30.16

The apples will last almost a week if I’m lucky (except that at one point last night, I did notice that Pax had an apple in each hand, ugh) and the grapes should make it through the weekend. The pears will be gone before Sunday. The PC snacks will last just over two weeks and the yogurt will provide 12 servings (total), or three days of yogurt for my smalls. The pop will last the entire week from Saturday to Saturday. Overall, can’t be sad.

We still have romaine, cucumbers, other apples, broccoli, frozen veg and pretty well stocked freezers, so this week I will need to restock the milk (tend to use 16-20L a week) and pick up berries, but overall, I think keeping to the $60 should be completely doable.

Oh! And I get to pick up our Good Food Box this afternoon, so I’m excited to see what produce we have to work with from that source as well!

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $30.16

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

PSA: Peanuts and shells found in finger holes of brand new baseball glove.

This sounds stupid, I know. While I admit that I am often not the last one to make a big deal over nothing, and I acknowledge upfront that none of my children (knock on wood) suffer from a peanut or other airborne anaphylactic allergy, so no one was hurt in this case, I do need to be able to sleep at night so I’m sharing this story as a precautionary tale to other parents, grandparents, or really any one who is shopping for or with a child.

Last night, one of my sons went with his grandmother to pick out a belated birthday present. They ended up at the Newmarket Canadian Tire, where he found the “perfect” baseball glove (after trying them all, plus three previous stores). They purchased the glove and brought it home.

When he showed it to me, I tried it on – it is a nice glove, the leather feels good, the glove has good action, he made a good choice. But then, at the tips of my fingers, I could feel something hard. I asked what it was and they said “oh, we think that’s just some shipping material.” But it felt hard and sharpish to me, wooden-like, so I kept at it and managed to pull a little piece out. “That looks like a peanut shell to me.” I said to no one in particular, and my curiosity peaked, I carried on.

As you can see from the pictures, in the end, I managed to pull out three complete peanuts plus a lot of shell. These were not there by mistake and they were not easy to remove. I was unable to remove all of the nuts and remnants of the shell remained. We chose to return the glove to Canadian Tire, along with the peanuts (as proof) and exchange it for a new one.

The nagging thought though, would not stop. What IF one my kids had a life-threatening peanut allergy and had stuck his or her hand into that glove in the store? What then?

So, while in this case, no one was hurt (and I am endlessly thankful that it was our family who brought the glove home and not a family with a vulnerable member), I am using the experience as a catalyst to remind everyone that there are some thoughtless, careless or just plain deranged people out there. Carefully check anything your child is going to try on their bodies before they do, just to try to ensure that it hasn’t been ‘pranked’ or tampered with by either some reckless kid or by some ill-meaning adult.

When we returned the glove to our local Canadian Tire, we were sure to request that they alert the Newmarket location so they can have their staff go through the rest of their shelf stock to ensure there are no other gloves that have been tampered with, but just leaving it there was not going to let me sleep at night (and I like to sleep).

Outside of the glove, perfectly brand new, and no appearance that anything is amiss.
The baggie of peanuts and shell that I managed to pull out of the fingers of the brand new baseball glove.
Remnants of peanut shells inside the glove (and there was still at least another whole peanut that I could not remove in one of the fingers).

Please share and pass along this post. I would hate to see a story next week or next month that a child was hurt, hospitalized or even died because another instance similar to this one.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Money. Some people have so much they never notice where it goes or how much is going. Other people never seem to have enough dollars to get to the end of the month without using credit and wracking up debt. Others of us though, do have enough dollars to get to the end of the month and carefully track where each and every dollar and dime go, updating the spreadsheets or notebooks daily, weekly or at least regularly. I fall into this last category. For the past five or more years, I have maintained an annual budget spreadsheet wherein I have tracked each and every expense, in sometimes painstaking detail. Before the spreadsheet, I maintained our budget in notebook and tracked bills, expenses, and income. For some people, the idea of doing this is sheer agony, but for me? I love it. I like knowing where our money is going, knowing approximately how much we’ll need for this expense in the upcoming year or where our spending has gotten a bit heavy and needs to be cut back in order to stay within our family values.

For years, while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. The fact that I also like to maintain a small pantry/stockpile and shop the sales, while it definitely ensures that I tend not to pay full price for meats, tinned goods or grocery items, it does mean that sometimes, the weekly outlay is more than I have allowed for in my budget. An occasional month of that, here or there, does not have much effect, but when it happens a few months in a row, I know that it’s time to pull back and re-evaluate. I also know that it’s time to start whittling down the freezers and stockpile in order to make room for new products, so nothing goes to waste.

This year, May is my month in which to do this. April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I will pick up later this month when it is available. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

I will update weekly with my actual spending on each Thursday.

May 2019 Weekly Grocery and Food Spending Challenge

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $TBD

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

When the long-awaited prognosis is “there’s no hope for recovery.” What then?

To set the scene, you’re at the doctor with a complaint. They diagnose the problem and your first reaction is relief (that you’re not crazy and it’s an actual ‘thing’) followed closely by a practical “okay, so what do we do about it, how do we fix this?” You’re given your options (there are usually at least a few) and maybe a plan is set forth to rid you of this issue, or at the very least, to deal with it. Disgust, fear, sadness, anger, frustration, depression, all of those feelings may come later, and none would be unexpected, depending on the diagnosis and prognosis.

So, that covers what may be a typical scenario, but there are other scenarios, aren’t there? Ones where the outcome is less positive, less reassuring, and far, far less okay.

You attend a hospital clinic appointment for a years-long issue (an issue which was, incidentally, discovered quite by accident when receiving annual follow-up for an unrelated and non-fatal condition). While the doctors have never been able to pinpoint or explain to you how you ended up with this very rare (you meet exactly zero risk factors), and likely non-genetic yet life threatening condition, you have so far endured years of treatments to manage the situation. All the while, never imagining that the mystery of the ‘why this, why me and how?’ will never be answered, but there is it. No answers.

It is while you are in attendance this latest appointment, that you ask the question “so, what can be done to get rid of this?” You are told, for the first time throughout the entire ordeal “nothing. There is nothing we can do for this particular problem.”
“Can it get bigger/worse?” You ask.
“Oh yes, it could.” Your clinic specialist physician says immediately.
“So, I’m a ticking time-bomb? The walking dead, essentially? Nothing will help? No treatment? No laser, surgery, medication, nothing will make this go away?”
“No, nothing. It could stay the same, it could change. We have no treatment options. Please make your next clinic appointment on your way out.”

Now, before I continue, this is NOT happening to me, my husband or my children. None of us are the patient in this scenario and I will not reveal the person’s identity out of respect their privacy. I am, however, a completely entangled and emotionally devastated ‘other’ receiving this news and I am, for the first time in my life, absolutely devoid of coping strategies or ways to either help the patient or myself to deal with the twisted rainbow of emotions, the paralyzing fear and grief upon hearing this news. If I can’t speak the words out loud, or even think them in my head without crying, how am I expected to deal with this?

What do you do when you are given NO hope? How do you cope with the news that not only is there no hope, there is no fight? There is no chance to over come, that no matter what, nothing you do or don’t do will have any impact on the outcome?

How do you prepare to be left? Knowing full well that everyone who is born, everyone who is in our lives will one day die, how do you prepare knowing that it may not be from very, very old age, but rather an unexplainable, unforgiving and untreatable malfunction from within? How can there be no hope?

I can deal with a lot and I have dealt with a lot. I have survived a lot and I will continue to survive a lot. What I don’t know, what I can’t figure out is how to deal with any of this without any hope. I can’t figure out how to survive any of this without even the smallest possibility that it’s all going to be okay.

This is all still new information for me and I am processing while absolutely losing my collective mind at the same time. My immediate rational reaction, to search for studies, treatment, other doctors, specialists, third, fourth, fifth opinions have been exhausted and now I am just broken and sad and trying so very, very hard to pull myself together. My being broken hurts everyone I love and I know that if I am not okay, then none of them are okay either but honestly, how am I going to fake my way through this one? How do I hold on to or even find any hope when I’m told in no uncertain terms that there is none and the only certainty is the loss of this most precious person from my life?

I am open to any and all suggestions, because I got nothing on this one.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Apparently, carrying a big purse does not give me superpowers but at least my wallet wasn’t stolen.

I carry a big purse. I have tried to scale it down, but alas, it appears as though I am not ready to make that leap to a smaller bag. I also carry a big wallet and I love it. It holds everything I need, my bills lay flat and together with my coins are easy for me to access. 

If only this were true! 😂

One day, I may reach the point that my mother has realized in the last year or so. The point at which she now carries her wallet in her pocket and carries only a pen and handkerchief in her purse. This seemed so strange to me, so of course I asked her about it. She explained to me that she carries a purse because accessorizing is the key to any outfit (duh). She also explained to me that as a senior, she is acutely aware that she has joined the ranks of yet another class of vulnerable people, at least when she is out and about in the world. 

My mother has always been fierce and brave and just a little bit crazy. Being a woman of her generation came with certain vulnerabilities in society, and none of those (now) openly challenged threats ever stopped her from living her life. 

She is still fierce and brave although advancing age has now introduced her to a new level of awareness around her personal safety of which she had thus far been unfettered. “I carry a purse because I love my purses. You know that. And you just can’t find good quality, well-made leather bags anymore. It’s all this over-priced garbage-quality shit. No way, Jose. A good bag will never let you down” she said with the conviction of a woman used to getting her own way (I know the tone well). She continued “but at the same time, if one of these assholes tries to knock me down and take my purse, well, joke’s on him, right? A used hankie and a pen. Ha! They won’t get a dime from me, the fuckers. My keys and my wallet are all safely kept not in my purse. Smart, huh?”

“Yes, Mum, that’s a good idea. But why are you bothering with the purse again? Isn’t it just a pain in the neck to carry about?”

“Ah well, you know I’m never out for that long, have to get back to take care of the dog and besides the outfit just  looks better if I have a purse, you know?”

Well, I don’t actually know because the majority of my outfits look homeless but I do know that while I love my current purse there are still times when I wish that I didn’t feel the need to carry it (and its endless contents) everywhere. While out shopping I spend time and energy keeping my purse safe, all the while also forgetting to zip it up while it hangs from my shoulder. This brings us to this morning.

I was in a slightly shady store in Newmarket (ugh, stop it – not XXX shady, just bargain-type shady). The kind of store where the other patrons will stand too closely behind you while you look at items. The kind of store where you instinctively hold onto your purse with your hand while it is still on your shoulder. Knowing these two things to be true, chose to patronize the store anyway (the frugal voices in my head are loud) and I ignored my inner sensible voice reminding me that I ought to zip up my purse. I wondered the store for a bit, choose a few books then lined up to check out, putting the books on the counter. I then started to look through my purse for my wallet and felt an instant and overwhelming panic setting it. As mentioned before, my wallet is big. It is not one that can hide or get lost in my purse, and I couldn’t find it. The words “my wallet has been taken” were almost finished leaving my lips when I glanced up from my bag and saw that I had already set my wallet on the counter, atop the books. I could have cried. I felt faint with relief and embarrassment as I was thisclose to losing all sense of dignity and having a full-on melt down right there. 

The woman behind me in line chuckled. “You’re okay” she said “I saw you starting to get panicky and I wondered if it was your wallet you were digging for, I was just about to tell you that it was on the counter.” She said with a kind and open smile. 

“Ah, thank you. I can’t believe I did that. Such a space cadet! It’s just that last time I was here, a woman was yelling that her wallet had been taken from her bag and ugh, I don’t know what got into me. Breathe.” I said, flapping my hands around my face, without taking a breath at all.

“Nah, you’re okay. It’s a different world we’re living in now. Doesn’t matter for me, I’m old, but it really bothers me for my grandchildren.” She shook her head.

“Yes. Yes, you’re right. That’s exactly what my mum says as well.” I smiled at her, willing for my body to calm down and my stomach to stop churning. “Well, lesson learned today for sure, I’ll be remembering to zip it up from now on!” 

“Well, now that it’s out of the way, you can carry on and have a good day.”

And so I did.

I should acknowledge that this story could have turned out very differently and if it had, I would have been devastated, full of guilt and shame. As it stands, I feel grateful, lucky and warned. Yes, things can be replaced, it’s inconvenient and cumbersome to cancel cards and to replace identification and I am ever so grateful that is not what I needed to spend the rest of my day doing, and at the same time, the experience has me more acutely aware that most things, once done, cannot be undone. My decision to not take the three seconds required to close my purse could have caused me, my family and others in my universe a great deal of stress and upset, had my wallet been lost or stolen. 

So, on this Monday of Mondays, I will henceforth heed the warning that God, the universe, or circumstance has so generously and graciously bestowed upon me and I will pay greater attention to the always-sensible-and-knowing voice that spends so much time reverberating around my brain trying to keep me safe from harm and far less time listening to the voice of that laissez-faire ne’er-do-well who skulks about up there looking for moments make a mess of a perfectly good day.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Have you had an Amazon package go missing from your front door?

Indulge me, please. This is going to be a wee bit of a meandering story, and I did not take pictures, (the reasons which I hope will become apparent as we go through this) and the content of parts of the story are not PG-13, so mind any young, literate humans in your vicinity while you read this.

Mistakes were made.

Today is a beautiful day here. The sun is shining, it’s 12C and it’s neither windy nor raining (it being a sunny day would not automatically rule either of the latter two conditions out), and so I decided to head outside for a walkabout. This would turn out later to be mistake number one.

Of note, I live in a relatively sparsely populated area, surrounded by forest and farmland. I believe that I can count on one hand the number of houses within a 15 minute walk of my home. It is beautiful and I love it. Unfortunately and for reasons completely unknown to me, other people like to drive around the area and dump various garbage as they go. On a typical day, I can expect to see littering the ditches and edges of farmers fields a vast number of fast food bags and cups, drink containers, beer cans, empty liquor bottles, construction waste and the like. Today was the same, but different.

As I was nearing the major cross-street in order to make the turn to complete the third leg of the giant block I was walking (it’s approximately a 2 km block), I noticed, in the ditch, an overturned Amazon box. It had clearly been there for a while, given how weathered the box appeared, but I could see that it still contained some of the plastic packaging Amazon uses to cushion their deliveries. I admit to having driven by this box any number of times over the course of the past weeks and not stopping. Today though, on foot, it occurred to me that perhaps this box had been stolen from someone’s front porch and if that was the case, perhaps I could help reunite that person with their package or at least give them an idea of what happened to it so they could have some closure (rather than just the blind rage I’m sure one feels when his mail is stolen from his front door). I decided to take a closer look. Mistake number two.

I stepped down into the ditch (luckily, not in a deep area of the ditch). The box was upside down, but open, so lifted the flap and saw something pink. Was it a children’s toy? It looked largish, maybe a toy pink head or something? Toys today are so weird. I lifted the flap a little further and lifted and saw a brand new-looking white USB-type cord, clear plastic bags (as most Amazon purchases are in when shipped) and more the pink item. It was not head. I had the wrong end of things. My mind quickly computed the situation and my hand let go of the box and I stepped back.

It was then that I noticed an open small black garbage bag wedged under a corner of the box. Protruding from the bag was an opened blue cardboard box with the word “Fleshlight” written in white lettering. No, that is not a typo. Needless to say, I did not touch the bag, nor investigate further. I stepped out of the ditch, completely grossed out just as a pickup truck, driven by an elderly gentleman rolled past. Ugh. My luck. Always my luck, I thought to myself. Well, I can only hope a) that he does not return to the site later to see what I was looking at and b) that he does not think that I was the one leaving that stuff there.

After the pickup truck turned the corner, I had another thought. I had only seen the bottom of the box. What if the shipping label was still on the top of the box? Without thinking further, I stepped back into the ditch and lifted the box enough to see the shipping label. It was still attached. The recipient’s name and address had been blacked out with a Sharpie marker. I was quite pleased to see that though, because I quickly realized that I really didn’t want to know who this box belonged to because SO AWKWARD. I’ve found things that belonged to other people before and have always been happy to deliver the news that I found their item and return it to them, but this? Ugh. I dropped the corner of the box again and stepped back out of the ditch, to resume walking.

I debated with myself about going back to take pictures, but asked myself why? Could I in good conscious post such pictures? Would a picture really make it ‘more real’? No, I decided. I really don’t want pictures of sex toys on my phone alongside pictures of my children, cat and cookies. Ewwwww.

In the end, I decided to come home and somehow impart the information to the locals, but also to use this incident as a bit of a platform to encourage some small change.

So, what do I want people to know?

First, if you’re local to Georgina and you have been unfortunate enough to have an Amazon delivery of male-oriented sex toys (large-size shipping box, but Amazon is notorious for using crazy big boxes for single, small items, so no way to tell how many toys the box once contained), your box and the remains of your order are in a ditch. If you’d like to retrieve them, message me and I’ll tell you where the ditch is. No judgement, to each his own.

Secondly, if you are local to or visiting Georgina and have the inclination to steal deliveries from private residences, (and I do not condone nor encourage you in this inclination) and you discover that the items therein do not meet with your approval or personal tastes, kindly either return the box to the house from which you removed it or if offended by the stolen booty that you feel compelled to dispose of the items, please use one of the town serviced garbage cans which are abundant throughout Georgina. These garbage receptacles can be found in all parks, town properties, and even a mere 3 minute drive down the road from where this box of treasure was found. Leaving NSFW-materials where children and families often walk and ride is irresponsible and reprehensible. Be better.

Thirdly, and perhaps finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us make bigger mistakes than others. Some mistakes we make are small. Some are embarrassing. Some are hurtful and some are innocent. Some are even illegal. Since whoever is stealing Amazon packages from homes has gone with the latter, I can only suggest that you limit the amount of harm you are doing while pursuing this misdirected choice. I do not pretend to know the who, what, where or why about that box in the ditch, but I do know that stealing is a big enough mistake without compounding it with littering and risking the emotional well-being of others, namely children. Do better.

Actually, no, there is one last thing.

This is not the first time that I have had the misfortune to see a discarded sex toys on the road in this area. The first time, a summer or two back, another male-oriented sex toy was laying smack-dab in the middle of the road baking on the tarmac and I could not, for the life of me, figure out who could possibly be driving around with sex toys in his vehicle and deciding that toy was suddenly so offensive that it must be immediately flung out the window and out of his life. I’ll likely never know (and I’m really super okay with that). But whoever you are, please stop. To you, noticing lack of subdivision houses may mean that no one lives here, but you’re wrong. People do live here. Animals live here. Families live here. So if you are unwilling to throw whatever you are tossing out your window into your own backyard (and clearly you are quite unwilling to do that, since you keep doing it here), then please do not throw it in our backyards either.

(This, of course, also goes for the (as yet unseen) person who walks around the area drinking beer after beer, and crushing and throwing the cans in the ditch or on the roadside every day. Bring a big and take your empties home with you, we don’t want them. Or better yet? Drink and stay at home).

So, while this is totally not a post about Easter, and is actually pretty icky when I think about it, I am going to just put this here because snuggly bunnies just make things better.
xx


P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx


This is the price that I gladly pay for raising literate children.

So. Mugsy here insists that her children read. Before these babies could properly sit up, they had shelves of books to look at, chew on, drag around and drop. She also insists upon reading to her children (currently only the younger four, between the ages of 8 and 14). She reads books upon books, chapter after chapter, novel after novel. From the time the children were hardly more than delicious little morsels with chub-chub thighs and wrist-less sausage-like arms over which she could marvel and upon which she could nibble during their 2 a.m. parties (turns out that some babies are really quite crap at sleeping – who knew?) and afternoon cuddles alike, she would read to them. She reads them stories from L’Engle, Dahl, Pilkey, Shannon and Blume. She reads them poems from Silverstein and Mother Goose, and tales from Parks, White and Rowling. She reads them Llama Llama and Dr. Seuss until they can all recite them from memory. She thought she was responsibly and rightly encouraging literacy. Being an only child herself, she had no idea that she was also promoting something else entirely.

One day a year or so ago while she roamed around Costco bemoaning to herself about the price of baby carrots (she doesn’t get out of the house often), she came across an absolutely irresistible boxset of books and before she could stop herself (as if she really tried 😏), she purchased it and once home reverently removed the cellophane wrap. Mugsy and her children were about to enter the weird and wacky worlds and words carefully crafted by David Walliams.

Isn’t it beautiful? 😍

Beginning with first book in the box, The Boy In The Dress, and whipping through one novel after another, in the prescribed order, Mugsy and her children shared in the joy and pleasure of each new chapter. They laughed at the crazy characters and waited to hear the next ‘special deal’ the kind-hearted newsagent, Raj, would offer his next ‘favourite’ patron. Finally finding a story without Raj shocked them all, and not believing that it could be true, they waited for him to appear. When he did not (won’t spoil for you which novel he’s absent from), they all felt, well, a little betrayed. Alas and ahoy however they pressed on, for they were “readers” and not “quitters.” (Whatever that is supposed to mean).

That brings us up to present day. The motley quintet are reading the last book in the boxset, Grandpa’s Great Escape, relieved to find that the world has been righted and Raj is back. Giggles and guffaws from Mugsy’s eager listeners come in short order when Raj tells young Jack “I have an excellent deal going on yoghurt. Well, I say yoghurt, it’s last month’s milk and…” But just a few pages prior to that classic Raj moment, on page 110, is the place where things take a bit of a turn and what inspired this blog post. The passage is on page 110:

Usually, learning new terms and words is something I celebrate, but sometimes, it leaves a little something to be desired.

Fast-forward a week or two later, after still more reading of three-to-five chapters of GGE while the children eat dinner (most weeknight evenings). Everyone is happy and invested in the story, although they do not discuss the book outside of their dinner hour. That is, until one early morning (and all mornings are such early mornings during the week), when Mugsy asks her youngest son if he would like a second egg on a second English muffin for breakfast (his usual school morning breakfast fare). Without looking up from his plate, without batting an eye he says “Oh, yes, please Char Lady.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Yes, please Char Lady” Said now, with an elfish, cheeky smile starting to spread across his face as he lifts his eyes to meet Mugsy’s shocked expression.
“Char Lady!?! Are you kidding me? You cheeky booger nugget!”

The explosion of giggles that follows, from both the boy and Mugsy are the sort that can only happen in spaces were there exists absolute trust, love, and the safety for spontaneous outbursts of silliness.

So now, when I ask any of my younger sons to do anything, they’re apt to reply with either “yes Char Wallah” or “yes Char Lady” and immediately start to laugh. At times when I am giving them a list of things to do, I will end the with “and thank you, Char Wallah” just to make them smile as they set on their way to scrub their toilet or make their beds.

It is in these exchanges, these small moments in time, around forgettable and mundane tasks that we are able to create the happiest memories, the times they will (I hope) one day look back on and smile about, remember yet another ‘inside joke’ that only the four of them will share long after I am gone.

So, since Mugsy here is to be called Char Lady or Char Wallah by a small army of my own making, I can’t think of a more lovely memory to have (and to share) of the moment when I realized that all time spent reading to and with my people has been so much more than ‘just reading.’ The time spent has encouraged them to become readers themselves, helped them discover the magic of being lost inside the pages of a book, and has (gently) forced them to become literate (despite the occasional ‘more better’ that may slip out when one of them is tired or distracted).

Our time spent reading has done all of that, yes, but even more than that, we have been stitching together moments like this “Char Wallah” moment which ultimately help to create the fabric of their shared experience of childhood, of parent-child interactions, of their relationships with one another and with me. Realizing this, it is my dearest hope that one day, when one of them needs it the most and expects it the least, that another one of them will let loose an eye roll and a “yes, Char Wallah” on him and that their memories of this time together and the feelings of safety, of family and love, of happiness and home may encircle each of them like a warm hug and make their hearts happy again. If only for that single moment in time.

Right then. Enough of the soppy stuff. This Mugsy / Char Wallah/Lady must go and prepare the evening meal. The children are hungry and we are all looking forward to reading chapters 47-52 of G.G.E. For now that Mrs. Trifle has finally found a loo, had her tinkle and “shaken it off” (no loo roll left, of course) and she, Grandpa and Jack have resumed their escape attempt from Twilight Towers and it’s matron, the high-voltage cattle-prod-wielding diabolical Miss Swine. We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to find out where the story will take us.

And finally, please believe me that no matter how tired, busy or fed up I am, hearing any of my children ask if I will read to them, do ‘the Word of the Day’ calendar with them or plead for ‘just one more chapter, please!’ makes my heart so incredibly happy (well, happy that is until I stop reading and they kick off one argument or another, for the fifty-billionth time, but that’s a different post for a different day), and I suspect that it always will. 📖❤️
~A.

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, if you like what you read here or hate what you read here, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx