dinner

VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

by Samantha on July 27, 2015

Here are 10 tips that will help you save money at the supermarket

vintage grocery

We all know that raising a family on a budget is a challenge, to say the least! With the price of food skyrocketing daily, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stretch our family dollar as much as possible.

While the prospect of going to the supermarket and stocking up every week is daunting for most of us, there are some simple tips that parents can follow to decrease the amount of money spent on groceries.

Whether you’re dealing with spending too much money at the grocery store, or managing a meltdown in the cereal aisle, there are options that can make parents breathe easier while at the supermarket, with or without the kids. And speaking of kids, this is what I deal with when shopping with the children. Fun? You betcha! 😉

kids in cart

As a follow up to this post - How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill - Top 10 Tips For Parents - I’ve provided tips via YouTube video as well, for those of you who may not have the time to read the full post.

Check it out the video below and let me know what you think about the tips (either in the comments section below or via YouTube comments). Feel free to add some additional tips as well! If there are enough, I’ll include them in an updated follow-up post. And while you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure that you receive the most recent video tips and advice!
VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping - Top 10 Tips For Parents

 

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Simple money-saving strategies for families

Groceries

That will be $257.43, please.

Ouch! That hurt!

Grocery shopping for a family of growing kids can be ridiculously expensive, as I’ve painfully found out. With a weekly shop a necessary requirement, a visit to the supermarket can bring on feelings of not only anxiety but downright fear as well. Pockets and wallets are only so deep and the thought of cleaning out the financial reserves in order to put food on the table can make any parent break out into a cold sweat.

With three growing kids and two adults, my grocery bill can be pretty hair-raising at times. Despite my best efforts, it’s definitely a challenge staying within a budget and making sure that my family dollars are stretched as much as possible.

That being said, there are some tricks that I’ve figured out that allow for greater savings and less money being handed over at the checkout. For anyone who’s been challenged to shop on a budget, these simple tips can really make a difference.

Here are my Top 10 Tips For Saving Money on Your Grocery Bill

1) Keep Up With Store Sales  - Get ahead of the game by knowing what the best deals are in your local area. Check all of the store flyers regularly (both print and online) and scour them for deals. Sign up for email newsletters and store memberships (where applicable) and watch your savings grow.

2) Be Fickle! - Don’t commit to just one grocery store. In keeping with Tip #1, know what’s on sale and also where it’s on sale. If the product or food item that you need is cheaper at a location other than your regular grocery store or supermarket, make the trip to that location and make it worth your while, financially. Map out a course of action and pick up your needed food items wherever they’re most economically priced for maximum savings.

3) Use Coupons - Whether it’s a manufacturer’s coupon or a store coupon, take any opportunity you have to save using these items. Look at coupons as free money: you have the option of saving, so why not? To not use coupons on your frequently-purchased items is almost the same as throwing money away. With online options and digital downloads available for most coupons, they are easily scanned from your smartph0ne or mobile device - no clipping required. There are also a number of coupon apps that take the guesswork and tedium of coupon clipping non-existent. **Scroll down to the end of the post for the top 10 coupon apps for both Android and iOS**

4) Shop in Season - Quite simply, fruits and vegetables that are seasonal are less expensive than those that are not. Think of it: a mango in a New York winter or a pumpkin in the dog days of summer means that both items have been transported from far-reaching locales. In addition to the obvious carbon footprint that the item will have, you’ll also have to contend with the high price required to transport the item from distant locals to your local supermarket. Shop for fruits and vegetables that are in season and help both your bank account and the environment.

5) Buy Store Brands - A little-known secret of supermarkets as well as many consumer goods stores is that they often sell name-brand products under a “white label” banner. In other words, those store-brand potato chips or acetaminophen could very well be the more expensive name brand items (e.g. Lays Potato Chips or Tylenol) in disguise. It is a very well-known and common practice for the makers of many name-brand products to offer the exact same items to consumers under the particular store brand where they are sold. In other words, these items are just as good as name brands and, even better,  you can often save up to a third or more off the name brand price. When it comes to groceries, consider buying store brand items for extra savings.

6) Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry - Perusing the aisles of your favourite grocery store on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster (pun intended). Before you head into the cereal aisle, make sure you’ve eaten enough that you’r full and not easily tempted by those unplanned snacks that beckon as you try to stick to your list. By eating before grocery shopping, there will be less likelihood that you will give in to a craving for the unplanned (and often expensive and unhealthy) food item in front of you.

7) Know Your Prices - To maximize the amount of money that you can save, make sure you go into the supermarket with a good idea of what things should cost and what your budget is for that particular day. As with any expedition, research and knowledge will help you achieve your goal - in this instance, saving money - and will arm you with the confidence to make the right food choices at the grocery store. Having a general idea about how much particular items cost will allow you to stay within your planned budgetary range and will lower your chance of overspending.

8) Buy Frozen or Canned Foods - Many foods that are frozen and canned are just as good for use in family recipes as fresh items, which are more expensive. If you’re down to the wire financially but are still on the hook to make a reasonably-balanced and healthy meal for the family, look no further than the frozen aisle of the grocery store and start saving. Examples of fresh food items that can be substituted for frozen in various recipes include frozen spinach in vegetarian lasagna, frozen peas for tuna casserole and canned tomatoes for homemade pasta sauce. (On a related note, always have some canned goods and non-perishable staples on hand so that you can rustle up a meal when you’re down to the wire and have to go grocery shopping. These included tomato paste, canned tomatoes, pasta, flour, sugar butter, etc.)

9) Make A Meal With What You’ve Got - Once a week, go through your cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer and get creative! Make a meal out of your existing food items to make sure that nothing is going to waste. Doing so will not only save you money but will give you a better perspective on what foods are being eaten - or not.

10) Buy in Bulk - For certain items, buying in bulk can make a considerable difference in your total weekly food bill. Whether it’s stocking up on staples such as flour or rice, or purchasing “bulk size” items such as toilet paper or diapers, check your prices, particularly the unit price and start saving.

So as you can see, following a few simple strategies while grocery shopping can result in considerable savings for a family on a budget. All it takes is a little bit of planning in order to get the most “bang for your buck.”

Remember, before you go to the supermarket:
  • Plan ahead
  • Have your coupons ready
  • Eat! Don’t shop while hungry
  • Frozen and canned goods can make cost-effective substitutes
  • Buy in season
  • Choose store brands wherever possible

RESOURCES

The Top 10 Coupon Apps for Android

The Top 10 Coupon Apps for iOS

VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

What are some of your tips and tricks for saving money at the grocery store? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

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When Your Child Wants to Become Vegetarian

by Samantha on August 8, 2014

How to support your child's new meat-free culinary choice

assorted vegetables

You’re a family of meat-eaters. Carnivores through and through. Steak, pork chops, ribs falling off the bone - that’s your idea of a real meal. This is how it is, this is the way it’s been forever in your family.

Enter your child. They could be young, say elementary school age, or in their tweens or teens. Regardless of their age, they’ve decided that they no longer want to eat meat.

What’s a parent to do?

This scenario is a common one that is playing itself out in kitchens and dining rooms around the world. With an increasingly aware group of children who are curious about how and where their food comes from, coupled with many delicious meat-free options that are now considered standard fare in supermarkets, restaurants and even school cafeterias, it’s no wonder that kids are considering their choices before they “chow down” on their next meal.

Vegetarian or not, the choice to become one poses a dilemma for families where most of the members are meat eaters and have always been so. For you as a parent, the practical considerations of this pronouncement by your child include the following:

  • Philosophical Disagreement - You just don’t agree with vegetarianism, period. People should eat meat - that’s how we evolved, and that’s your position.
  • More Work For You - Having a child that disagrees with you is causing a major problem at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table as you may have to make extra meals to accommodate your child. As well, there’s the education involved as you may also have to “bone up” (pun intended) on vegetarian nutrition and find out what types of healthy, balanced meals you can make for the new non-meat-eater in the family.
  • Expense - “How much is this going to cost me?” you may be thinking. After all, aren’t vegetarian foods more expensive? From a practical perspective, money is money and parents on a budget may balk at the idea of having to spend more on groceries due to this new development
  • Fear - What does this new foray into meat-free eating say about your child? Is this just the beginning of an overall change of values for your beloved son or daughter, values that you worked so hard to in still in them?

Recently, my ten-year-old daughter expressed an interest in cutting down the amount of meat that she would be eating. Inspired both by her deeper consideration about animals and school friends who are also vegetarian, the topic has been one that we’ve been discussing frequently.

Full disclosure: While I am not a full-fledged vegetarian by any means, I eat mostly vegetarian dishes, do not eat red meat or pork at all, and eat chicken and fish two to three times a week. Generally speaking, I lean more towards the non-meat meals as a preference. That being said, the rest of my family eats meat of all kinds fairly regularly. This type of scenario - where different family members eat different meals is not at all atypical. For many reasons, food choices amongst family members often begin to vary as children get older and form their own thoughts and ideas about what they do or don’t want to eat. The question for the parents then becomes: “How are we going to deal with this?

 Tips for Parents of Newly Vegetarian Children:

1) Be Supportive - Your child is questioning their choices and is starting to make decisions for themselves. This is a good thing! You’ve likely taught them to be an independent thinker and to weigh many sides of an issue or topic. In choosing a vegetarian diet, they are doing this, so help them along their journey as they sort out their new dietary lifestyle.

2) Know Your Stuff - Learn as much you can about vegetarianism, not only the nuts and bolts such as what to cook, but the philosophy behind it as well. Many cultures and countries in the world have large vegetarian populations and long histories behind this culinary choice. In addition to learning about the philosophy, do some research to make sure that your child’s daily nutritional needs are met. Things to consider include vitamin intake, protein and iron requirements, which foods are rich in specific vitamins, etc. Also consider the type of vegetarianism that your child wants to follow. There are also different types of vegetarian diets and not all are the same. Some of these include Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw Vegan, Ovo-Vegetarian, and others. For a more detailed list with explanations of each, click here.

3) Learn Some Recipes -  This new nutritional venture is a great opportunity for you and your child to cook together as well as to learn some new recipes. Seize the moment and invest in a vegetarian recipe book (or two) and learn to cook some meat-free meals. Sit down with your son or daughter and go through some potential dishes that appeal to you both. Cooking with your child and showing support in this way will make the transition to this new cuisine more enjoyable for both of you.

4) Plan Ahead - Meal planning is key in this new world order. The last thing you want to have to deal with is scrambling to make a separate dish for your child and finding out that you don’t have the right ingredients. Sit down with your son or daughter and, as in point number 3, learn some recipes and then head to the local grocery store to make sure you have the ingredients. Make a weekly menu and grocery shopping plan so that you’re prepared for each meal. The key is to have vegetarian staples on hand so that meals and snacks for your child are easily prepared. These can include vegetable soup stock (for making soups, vegetarian stews, etc.), tofu, beans, nuts, rice, and of course plenty of fruit and vegetables.

5) Be Flexible - Sure - you may love to tuck into your steak and potatoes regularly but perhaps your child’s new food choice is an opportunity for a family shift in family meals. With little effort and an open mind, you can support your child’s choice without too much change to your own diet. Consider making vegetarian meals for the whole family once or twice a week, or making a complete veggie-based dish as part of your family’s regular menu. Starting with Meat-Free Mondays or a similar food plan will help you along the way.

At one time, vegetarianism was seen to be an odd and in many cases, unpopular choice for families. Thankfully, things have changed and these days, there are a number of sites and options available for those who want to venture into a more vegetarian-based diet.

Here are some great sites with kid-friendly vegetarian recipes:

BBC Good Food: Vegetarian Kids’ Recipes

Cooking Light: Vegetable Recipes For Kids

Martha Stewart: Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes

With an open mind, a little planning and some flexibility, you can easily support your child’s new food choice without making too many changes for the rest of the family. Bon appétit!

Has your child recently expressed an interest in becoming vegetarian? If so, how have you handled this decision? Do you agree or disagree with children making this choice? Leave me your thoughts and comments in the section below.

 

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A Note To Restaurant Owners From a Frustrated Parent

kids toilet

Public washroom.”

Do these two words make you cringe? If you’re a parent, they likely do. And you’re not alone. All of us who have had to encounter the phrase “I have to go pee!” – or worse – know how fear-inducing such a pronouncement can be. The cause of this dread?

Germs.

Filth.

Other people’s bodily fluids.

Gross but true. Let’s just say that a trip to a public restroom can be the cause of extreme anxiety for not only the kids but their parents as well.

Yes, in spite of your “best laid plans” – taking your kids to the washroom before you leave the house, limiting the amount of fluids that they drink before venturing out of their warm cocoon of home, double-checking that your child actually “went pee” – the dreaded declaration is uttered nonetheless. Here you are, in a nice family restaurant, just about to bite into your hamburger when your kid drops the bomb. “I have to go NOW!” they scream and you’re immediately filled with fear. What awaits you in the washroom is more than you ever want to imagine, and not in a good way.

The scenario above is not atypical and parents deal with similar situations every day. What stresses them out the most is the potentially gross situation that awaits them in the washroom stall. How many of us have made arrangements to dine out with kids, but then waylaid these plans altogether just because the thought of dealing with your child in a public restroom was more than you could bear?

From a parent’s perspective, it would be great if there were some standards and “must-haves” that could be agreed-upon and expected for all public washrooms. After all, it’s pretty basic, isn’t it? When nature calls, we all have to answer; why not make it less unpleasant?

With fingers crossed and the hope that more eating establishments and other public destinations will get on board with parents’ ideal lavatory wants, here are five must-haves for public washrooms.

Restaurant Owners: 5 Things You Need in Your Washrooms

1) Cleanliness – This is first and foremost for parents. No one wants to walk into a restroom that looks or smells like it hasn’t been recently cleaned. Considering the fact that most kids touch everything in their immediate vicinity, make the effort to assure that the bathroom is spic and span.

2) Space to Move – What’s with the cramped quarters? Ideally, one should be able to move around reasonably in the stall, even more so when there’s a young child in tow. As any parent can tell you, there’s nothing worse than trying to help a child “do their business” in a place where the door can barely close with the two (sometimes three) of you in there.

3) A Change Table – As noted in #2, parents need room to move and when there are babies in the mix, this becomes even more of a priority. Why? Well try changing a baby on the floor of a bathroom stall. Not nice. Parents need a clean surface, large enough to hold a wriggling baby. We’ve all seen variations on these items in public washrooms but not all of them are up to par. Ideally they should include the following: a way of securing the baby to the table, a material surface that is easily cleaned and sanitized and a configuration that allows it to be opened and closed in a bathroom stall without much effort. And while I’m on the topic, a change table is not only required in the women’s washroom! So many fathers have their babies in tow and yet are left by the wayside when it comes to accommodations. C’mon, restaurants - give them a change table in your restrooms as well. Equal rights for all parents, okay?

4) Child-Height Sinks and Soap Dispensers – This sounds so obvious but you’d be surprised at how many public washrooms don’t accommodate kids. It’s almost as if they don’t want the children to wash their hands 😉 Don’t discourage kids from this important step by making it difficult for them (and their parents). Sinks and hand soap should be at child level so that parents can teach their kids good hygiene as they finish “doing their business.” Same goes for hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.

5) “Hands-Free” Capability – It’s not only for driving, you know. Think airport washrooms: you walk in, there’s no door handle to touch, no having to flush the toilet with your foot (!) and the water starts flowing the minute you or your young charge puts their hands under the faucet. Less contact, less germs. All public washrooms should be like this.

What have I missed? What else would you add to this restaurant wish-list? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Really Easy Homemade Pizza Recipe With No-Rise Crust

by Samantha on November 10, 2013

A Simple and Quick Meal That the Kids Will Love


This one is great for kids.

I make this homemade pizza often because I got tired of paying $30 or more for a pizza or two to be delivered that wasn’t that much better than my own. Let’s face it: when you have little kids, they’re not that picky when it comes to this childhood favorite. They don’t really care about a “gourmet” pizza experience. They just want the basics: a good crust, lots of mozzarella and maybe some pepperoni, if we’re lucky.  I figured out quickly that I could deliver - just like the pizza man - at a quarter of the cost.

First off, let me say that this post won’t be like the typical food posts that you see at so many other blogs that focus on food and cooking. As you know, this blog focuses on Parenting, so this post will be in that context. In other words, the really pretty pictures of food, ingredients and fabulous meals being created step-by-step won’t be found here!

If you’re a frazzled parent, or  if you don’t have kids but don’t want to pay for an expensive delivery pizza that’s not that good, and think you can do just as well (or better)  yourself, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll start with the end result. Here it is:

pizza

Here are the ingredients (please note that these are approximations - increase or decrease, depending on your preference):

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Dough

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1-1.5 cups of warm water
  • 1 packet of quick rise yeast (8 grams or 2.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional for dough: dried oregano, thyme or rosemary
  • Optional for bottom of crust: cornmeal

Topping

  • 3/4 of 22 ounce can of your favorite pizza or spaghetti sauce
  • 2-3 cups of grated mozzarella
  • Pepperoni - as much as you’d like
  • Additional toppings - mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Directions:

  • Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl
  • Slowly pour in water and oil while mixing - you may want to use a spatula or wooden spoon for this
  • Keep stirring while adding wet ingredients until done
  • Pour additional flour over mixture if it’s too wet or sticky
  • Transfer dough to a floured surface and lightly knead for 5 minutes
  • If using cornmeal, sprinkle onto pizza pan
  • Spread pizza dough onto pizza pan - if using conventional round pan, you can get two pizzas out of this dough; I usually use an 18″ X 13″ pan (shown in the picture) for one big, rectangular pizza
  • Spread pizza/spaghetti sauce over dough
  • Spread mozzarella on top of sauce, then cover with toppings
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until mozzarella is melted and browned

That’s it! I use this recipe often and can have the pizza, including dough preparation and cooking, done and cleaned up within 45 minutes. Not bad for a meal that kids love.

**TIP** Get your kids in the kitchen to help you - they’ll have a blast preparing this simple dish and will be thrilled about eating their “creation!”

**TIP** Freeze leftover slices immediately and reheat in the oven later.

Let me know how your pizza turns out in the comments below!
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Cooking to Build Confidence in Kids - Top 5 Tips For Parents

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How to Cook With Kids: Top 5 Tips For Parents

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How to Have a Great Staycation - Top 10 Tips For Parents

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Spending vacation time in your home city can be both fun and economical So here’s the scoop: You’ve got kids, you’re tired and you want a family vacation. The problem is, you don’t have the funds to do it the way you’d like to. As a matter of fact, money’s pretty tight all around and […]

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Monday Musings: How Much Do We Tell Our Kids?

July 1, 2013

How much do we tell our kids? It’s a question that we, as parents, grapple with on a daily basis. I’ve spoken before about my particular view of parenting, and how I don’t believe that we should be “friends” with our children. There needs to be a clear demarcation between adult and child, so that […]

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How to Deal With Telemarketing Calls - Top 5 Tips For Parents

April 6, 2013

What type of moron calls during dinner time? I’ll tell you: a telemarketer. Telemarketers don’t care that you’re already stressed, trying to get dinner on the table while your three have kids increasingly horrifying meltdowns because they’re starving. Telemarketers don’t give any thought to the fact that you really don’t want to buy a new […]

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