When Maternity Leave Pay is Gone

I remember being terrified at the thought of what would happen when my maternity leave with Chloe ran out.  Our “plan” had been to have a baby, go back to work and earn enough hours for another maternity leave, have a baby, etc.  It didn’t work that way.  By the time I went back to work after Chloe, I was already half way through my pregnancy with Ben.  I knew that when he was born, I’d be done working and earning an income for a while.  Here are some tips and tricks we used to work with a one-income budget.

1. Start living like you already have one-income. I honestly wish someone would have told me that before I had Chloe.  Cutting your income in half after years of relying on it can be a shock to the current way you are living, so start preparing now!  Put your maternity leave pay into a savings account and start budgeting NOW for how you will live when you really are down only one income.

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2. Learn to live simply.  You likely won’t be able to do all the things you did (or at least to the same extent) as you used to.  For us I had to cut out the regularly clothing splurge trips (which in hindsight was just a ridiculous waste of money), I went to the salon less frequently, and we learned to have frugal dates.  Budgeting and staying within that budget became a serious thing especially since we were now providing for our little ones.

3. Say no.  You don’t need to keep up with the Jones (or whoever that family is that everyone seems to envy).  I remember thinking that I needed to have this or that to be happy while at home, but we simply couldn’t (and can’t) afford certain luxuries.  When I’m tempted to splurge on something we don’t need and haven’t budgeted for, I need to say no (which is hard if it’s something I want and it’s on sale).  We’ve learned to be content with these growing years where our furniture is not the nicest (second hand and currently stained with purple nail polish), our bedding doesn’t always match and the walls in our house are a hideous yellow.

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I don’t even care that there is nail polish on it because it cost $50.

4. DIY.  Yup.  Do it yourself.  I’ve learned how to make blankets, we wash our own rugs, plant our own produce and hang our laundry to dry.  We are teaching ourselves frugal do it yourself ways so to help us live within our one-income budget.

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What are some of your tips?

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Our April Grocery Budget Breakdown

After a couple months of paying close attention to what we’re spending at the grocery and on what products, I’ve come up with a breakdown of our $350 grocery store budget.

Produce$130 ($110 to Organic Box and $20 to use at the grocery store).  Seems like a lot doesn’t it?  BUT if you look at what you’re spending on produce in a month, you’d probably come up with something similar.  In reality if you break it down, we are really only spending $32.50/week on organic produce for a family of four.  That’s decent.

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Milk $36: Currently we’re buying Dairyland Organic Milk and that costs roughly $8.99 (not including deposit fees).  I’m able to bring that price down to at least $7.99 (this week I can bring it down to $6.99 since it’s on sale at Sobeys) when I use coupons, but the tear pads are expiring this week and I only have 2 printed coupons and 2 coupons from the Ingredients Magazine.  My kids drink about one 4L jug of milk every week so we budget roughly $36 for that (budget does not include coupon savings).

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Dairy (cheese, yogurt, butter, etc) – $40:  We spend roughly $12 to get four blocks of butter and that lasts us the month.  Yogurt varies depending if the kids are on strike, but I usually buy them for 50% off and using a coupon.  Cheese is whatever is on sale that week or free with Shoppers Drug Mart points.  I’ll keep track of this spending as well.

Meats/Eggs – $100:  If I am honest, I haven’t paid that close attention to how much we spent in meat in the last few months, but I do not think it was a significant amount at all, so $100 is my absolutely MAX.  We basically buy ALL our free-from and organic meats for 30-50% off and freeze them.  I’ll keep close track this month and let you know our spendings.  We usually spend about $10 on eggs in a month.

Breads/Grains – $30:  Last month I bought 6 loaves of Silver Hills organic bread and they lasted all month: this is because no one (except me) really liked the bread!  This month we’re going to try Cobs bread.  While it’s not organic, it has no preservatives, is fresh and has a customer rewards program where we can earn free bread!

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Other – $10:  This other category displeases Ryan somewhat because he likes chips, dips, Spitz, coke, etc, but we can use Shoppers Drug Mart or PC Points if he ‘absolutely needs’ his snacky foods.

So that’s kind of our rough breakdown of our grocery budget!  I’m ready to go back to spending weekly and have already planned out my grocery list for April 1!

13 Days, $5.62 Left to in the Budget

Today I spent $7.43 picking up a few grocery items we needed for the week.  There are 13 days left in February to stick within my $350 grocery budget and I now have $5.62 that I can spend out of pocket!

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$7.43 OOP (out of pocket)

Here’s the breakdown:

– I used my rain cheque from Sobeys to FINALLY get my organic potatoes (1.36kg) for $2.49.  Regular price: $3.99.

– The Advil and eggs I got for $1.58 by using a coupon and redeeming $10 in points at Shoppers Drug Mart.  Regular or sale price: Advil $10.99, eggs $1.99.

– After price matching the milk for $7.99 (from this week’s Sobeys flyer) using my $1 coupon and $5.31 in Superbucks, I got the milk and bananas at Superstore for only $3.37.  Regular price: milk $8.99, bananas $0.89/lb.

5 Tips to Start Frugal Organic Shopping

I realized I may have gotten a head of myself with starting this blog and launching immediately into a personal challenge, so I’m going to back track a little for the sake of those who are thinking, “Hey, that’s nice that you’re going to only spend $350 this month on your organic groceries, but how the heck do I get started?”  My apologies for getting too eager; here are some things I do.

1. Coupon.  I do a few things in order to be able to afford organic products:

  • Email organic companies asking for coupons.
  • “Like” organic companies of Facebook and watch for promotions.
  • Stay alert when grocery shopping for the rare organic coupon tear pads.
  • Use coupons to save money on OTHER non-organic products such as toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, make-up, medicine, clothing, etc.
  • I am part of Facebook’s couponing network and trade non-organic coupons for organic coupons.

Couponing does take a certain amount of time and commitment, but for me the payoff is worth it. 

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Just some organic coupons I’ve been able to collect. I’ve used many others that are not seen here.

2. Watch and record sales (or just watch this blog for sale alerts!)  Checking your flyers weekly is one of the BEST ways to do this.  In just a short time and with a bit of networking, I’ve been able to learn sale cycles and record stock up and sale prices.  Some stores will price match other stores’ flyers which is a great way to help optimize savings!

3. Reward yourself.  This can be such an extensive topic so I’m going to attempt an in-depth post another time.  Basically, make sure you’re getting something back for buying your products.  Whether it’s 20x the points at Shoppers Drug Mart, PC Plus points, Superbucks, 15% off day, special offers, points on your credit card, etc. make sure you’re optimizing these rewards in order to help you save more later on.

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Reward yourself!

4. Discount stickers.  Don’t be afraid to buy items that are clearing out.  I feel like I hit the jackpot when I find my grocery list products on clearance, especially when it’s meat and dairy.  You can freeze a lot of these items or be creative and figure out how to use them up in your meals that week.

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Don’t be afraid of the pink sticker!

5. Inventory.  List. Plan. Shop. Stop. Plan.  Record!  Before I go shopping, I check to see what I have and what I need (especially when I’m getting close to exhausting the monthly budget).  I’ll do a quick inventory, makes a list based on what we have/need and what’s on sale in the flyers, plan my coupons/promotions, shop, then stop.  By stop I mean shop only once (MAYBE twice) a week.  Based on what I bought I then meal and snack plan for the week.  It may be a little backwards, but for us it’s been the best way to save money.  This is because we buy sale and discount items.  We almost NEVER buy anything at full price or without a ‘reward’.  Most of our meat and yogurt have discount stickers on them and our produce will always be whatever is on sale for the week.  We do allow some flexibility within our budget for stock up items in case something goes on such a great sale that it’s worth it to buy more than we need (at the moment) but will certainly use up before they expire.  Don’t forget to keep track of how much you spent so you don’t over spend!

I learned a lot of these tips while buying non-organic products, but it can be applied to any means of shopping really!  Try implementing one or two (or all) of these and you’ll notice a difference in the amount you spend when buying organic!

I Have a Confession…

I bought these tonight:

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But they weren’t for me.  I bought them from Costco ($9.99/each) for some friends.  My confession is that I REALLY wanted to buy them for us too, but it would have brought what’s left of my February budget to $2.56, which is something I’m not comfortable with since it’s not even mid-way through the month yet!

So instead I put these on my list of snacks for next month and enjoyed doing some blog research while I was there.  I’ll be posting something soon about frugal organic shopping at Costco.

 

How I Got Free Organic Milk!

…and a few other organic/whole food items too!

I like to shop strategically and make a plan before I go.  My plan doesn’t only consist of a grocery list, but almost always the price and any coupons/promotions/bonuses I will use too.

This week I was running low on organic milk and knew I’d have to head in at some point to get some.  Milk is one of those grocery items that doesn’t generally go on sale or have coupons (more on this later), but lucky for me right now there are $1 off coupons for organic milk, which was a great place to start!

At Superstore, Dairyland Organic Milk is $8.99 plus a $0.50 recycling fee so $1 coupon savings doesn’t seem like much, and with my goal to keep groceries at $350 this month, there is no way I’d be paying full or even HALF price for that.  I also didn’t want to compromise on quality.  So here’s what I did:

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Initially I thought my Superbucks and $1 coupon would be enough to cover the full cost of the milk,, but I was off a little.  So I decided it was a good time to use my $25 gift card that I received last week (my reward for spending $250 at Superstore – nope, didn’t spend the full amount on groceries).  I searched through my fridge to see what else I might need for the week to use up the whole $25 gift card and also bought these items:

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PC Plus also rewarded me for buying the organic milk!

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I was pretty pleased that with some strategic planning, coupons, Superbucks, PC Plus and PC Mastercard, not only did I get FREE organic yogurt, organic bananas, organic milk, organic apples, I also got a couple other ‘whole food’ items as well!  OOP?  NOTHING!  It was all free!

My goal for the next few weeks is to use my Superbucks to see what organic products I can get for free or close to free.  What do you use yours for?  Anything specific?

The February Challenge

A good friend of mine told me that their grocery budget for the next few months will be $350 – this is for a family of five (soon to be six)! She is such an inspiration to me in so many ways, and this is just another: her commitment to their family’s organic eating habits while sticking to her budget is truly impressive. I’ll admit that at first I thought it would be almost impossible for a family that size to stick to that budget, and it certainly wasn’t something my family could do.  But then I felt the rush of adrenaline (ya geeky I know) as I suddenly thought about how this could be an exciting challenge for me to do!

So here’s my plan:

Goal: ‘To see how much natural/organic grocery items I can buy while sticking to my budget of $350.’

1. I define ‘groceries’ as products I regularly buy at a grocery store. This includes food, diapers, household supplies (cleaning, toilet paper,etc), toiletry items.  Lucky for me, I’m well stocked up on everything but food, so this month should be ‘easy’.

2. As I have said before not everything I buy is 100% natural and/or organic, but I mostly focus on food items such as produce, meat and some dairy, but I will cover ways of saving in other areas as well.

3. I have a firm out of pocket budget of $350. If any necessary expenses come up – like milk – I will have to use free product coupons, rewards, gift certificates etc.

So far, as of today this is the breakdown of my February grocery spending:

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Yup, that’s right! My spending for the month is almost done! Not to fear! When shopping for these items, I also look to earn things back to use on future purchases. This month included rebate offers, $25 gift card to Superstore, bonus points at Shoppers Drug Mart, PC Plus points and PC MasterCard points (I use my MasterCard for all my purchases).

So that’s my plan for the month and an update on where I’m at! Stay tuned for more to come!