Grocery Shopping on a Budget

One way for you to stay on top of your budget plan is to monitor how you shop for groceries. Grocery shopping can be a difficult task, especially when there are so many options. Before you go grocery shopping, make sure you have a plan so you know what your budget is and what specific items you need to buy. For this, we utilize the SMART goal making method, which was introduced a few blog posts back.

  • Specific – Specify the items you need and shop ONLY for those items.
  • Measurable – Know how much of each item you need.
  • Achievable – Is your shopping basket within your budget?
  • Relevant – Is the item related to what you need?
  • Time-bound – Is this for current or future needs (e.g. Perishables or pantry items)?

Here are 3 easy ways to grocery shop on a budget while also ensuring nutrition-packed meals for you and your family:

HomingFromWork_m_06121. Plan Ahead – Planning ahead by using the SMART goal making method ensures that you get everything you need without compromising your budget. When grocery shopping with a set meal plan, you know exactly what items to buy,  reducing your chances of purchasing unnecessary items.

2. Shop Healthy – Believe it or not, shopping healthy is actually the cheaper option! When you look at your receipt from past shopping trips, often times you will notice that the majority of your purchase went towards “extra” or more convenient food choices, which tend to be high in calories and contain unhealthy chemicals. Replace the pre-packaged or microwavable meals with fresh ingredients from the produce section!

coupons-23. Save Coupons and Take Advantage of Events – Many grocery stores offer limited time discount events, such as Superstore’s Super Stock Up Days. Keep an eye out for these discount events, which frequently appear on mailed-out fliers or company websites, as they are a great opportunity to save money on grocery shopping. Also, take advantage of these events to buy non-perishable items in bulk so that you can have a readily accessible supply when you need them!

Grocery shopping on a budget is no easy task especially since there are so many options around. Keep in mind that you have a goal and that by shopping SMART, you can save money and eat healthy, nutritious foods!

Monitoring Financial Flows and Budgeting

Managing personal finances can be a very daunting task. Often times it is tempting to simply turn a blind eye when it comes to tracking our expenses. In this blog post, we will discuss some basic steps to save money by keeping track of financial flows, setting achievable budgets, and following these budgets.

Monitoring Financial Flows

In order to control our finances we need to understand where they come from and where they are lost. We can have various sources of income and expenses such as:

  • Income: pay-cheque, social assistance benefits, child support (child tax benefits and credits), tax rebates, earnings on investments.
  • Expenses:
    • Fixed expenses – rent, insurance (health and car), utility bills
    • Living expenses – transit, gas, groceries, household items
    • Personal expenses – clothes, gifts, entertainment, education, dining out
    • Other bills – credit card

The first step is to gather all documents relevant to our finances, such as receipts, bills and invoices, and pay stubs. Then by performing a simple calculation we obtain our “balance”, or the amount of money that we have not used:

             Income – Expenses = Amount to be saved

It is important to ensure that we have a positive balance as it can be saved up; a negative balance means we have spent more than we earned, so we need to reduce our expenditures.

Setting Achievable Budgetsbudgeting

By setting a budget, we place a cap on the amount of money that we spend. With the increased usage of credit cards, it is very easy to accumulate debt and to overspend. Budgeting allows us to identify and control bad spending habits.

So you may be wondering, how exactly do we set appropriate budgets? A budget is a quantitative goal, therefore it must be SMART:

  • specific so we are clear of what we want to accomplish
  • measurable so we can compare our budgeted amount to actual expenses
  • achievable so it is challenging but not impossible
  • relevant so it helps us to accumulate wealth
  • time-bound to ensure a successful and timely completion, also motivates you to reach your goal on a certain day

For example, we can limit our spending on eating out (specific) to only $50 (achievable and measurable) each month (time-bound), so we can reduce unnecessary costs (relevant).

Following and Evaluating Budgets

It is crucial to follow budgets and to keep track of budgeted amounts and the actual expenses incurred during each time period. One of our workshop coordinators shared with us that she herself sets budgets. She would record all of her expenses on a continual basis, and at the end of each month, she would calculate the total amount spent in each respective category. She claimed that this allowed her to compare her actual expenditures that month with the budget she had set. There is no perfect budget amount; budgets should be set based on what is suitable for your individual situation.

Managing finances is no easy task as it takes commitment and time. Through budgeting, one can learn to prioritize spendings, to accumulate wealth, and to be better prepared for the future. Best of luck budgeting and saving! For additional tips, take a look at Hunger Actions’ online budgeting templates!

Healthy Alternatives to Unhealthy Snacks

We all crave snacks and junk food once in a while but these foods are often unhealthy. Hunger Actions has come up with a list of alternatives for some of your favorite snack items!

Candy

Candy is loaded 1212131772250with unhealthy sugar; within the average bag of candy there is approximately 47 grams of sugar. Switching to dried fruit alternatives, like apricots, raisins, or dates,will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but also provide you with your daily micronutrients (vitamin and minerals) as well!

Chips

Chips contain saturated fat, large amounts of sodium, and no beneficial nutrients. An alternative to potato chips is baked kale chips. Kale is a leafy green that is full of essential vitamins ankale-chips-590x400d minerals. It improves blood glucose control, skin and bone health, and also lowers the risk of cancer. The best part is how quick kale chips are to make! All you need to do is drizzle olive oil over the kale, sprinkle with seasoning salt, bake for 15 minutes, and you are ready to snack.

French Fries

While french fries are really tasty, they are also high in calories, trans fats and sodium. To satisfy your salty cravings, you can substitute french fries with oven-roasted sweet-potato wedges! Sweet roasted-sw-pot-hl-522028-xpotatoes are powerful antioxidants that can help protect you from aging and help ward off cancer. They also contain high amounts of fiber, which is great for your digestive system. All you need to do is coat the sweet potato wedges with some seasoning and bake the potatoes for 30 minutes.

Pudding

For all you pudding lovers out there, coconut chia pudding is your perfect alternative. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants factors, fiber (good for the 00ac6c0311b71109_chia-pudding.jpg.xxxlargedigestive system) and quality protein. To make this pudding, you mix chia seeds, coconut milk and honey, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. It will be ready for you to enjoy the next day!

Eating healthy is definitely not hard to do when there are so many nutritious and economic alternatives to those unhealthy snacks. Give these alternatives a try and let us know how it turns out! Stay tuned as we will be posting more nutrition tips next Friday!

How To Save On Your Electricity Bill

There are many more ways to save money at home, besides just turning off the lights. Here are a few more ways you can reduce your electricity bill.

Lighting

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Turn off the lights when they’re not in use: this is probably one of the easiest and simplest things to do, but sometimes, we forget!

Use task lighting: instead of lighting up large rooms with ceiling fixtures, use smaller lamps to light up only the spaces you need.

Use natural light: There’s no need to turn on the lights when there’s plenty of sunlight right outside of your window. Not only does this save lots of money during the day, but it’s environmentally friendly. Painting the walls with brighter, more reflective paint can help brighten the room.

Use LED lighting: LEDs (Light-Emitting diode) are generally more expensive, but they have a much longer life-span than the regular light bulbs, making them very cost-efficient.

Heating

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Lower the thermostat temperature when you’re not home or overnight: doing this can help you save 5% to 10% on your electricity bill.

Avoid heating areas that don’t need heating: Such spaces include the garage, crawlspaces, and other storage areas.

Only heat areas that you need: instead of heating up an entire room or house, just use portable heaters to heat up the areas that are being occupied.

Keep windows and doors shut: don’t let the heat escape!

Recommended Heat settings:

Water

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Take showers instead of baths: showers use about half the amount of water as baths do.

Keep showers short: limit your shower time as much as possible and turn off the water while lathering.

Only use the dishwasher when you have a FULL LOAD: if you’re hand washing your dishes, don’t leave the tap running and don’t let the tap run on full pressure.

Do not defrost food under cold water: plan ahead and defrost food in the fridge or in a single pot of water.

Wash laundry with cold water when possible: also wash only when there is a full load.

 

Appliances

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Use smaller appliances: instead of using a full oven, use a smaller toaster oven that will use less energy.

Avoid using appliances to defrost food: plan ahead and use your fridge instead.

Be ready after pre-heating: Make sure you’re ready to put everything in the oven when the temperature is right! You don’t want to leave the oven on while you’re still mixing in ingredients.

Air-dry dishes and clothes when possible: dishes will dry fairly quickly on a rack.

Keep doors closed: make sure you know what you want when you open the fridge and avoid leaving it open for long amounts of time. For your oven, you want the seal on the door to be tight so that heat doesn’t escape.

Keep appliances clean: this will maximize the appliance’s efficiency and keep it running for a longer time.

Match pan sizes to element sizes: if the element is larger than the pot or pan, wasted heat will escape from the sides.

Use timers and thermostats when cooking: Overcooking your food wastes energy and ruins your meal too!

Turn off the oven 15-20mins earlier: the food will continue to cook while reducing the amount of energy used.

 

Electronics

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Turn off all equipment that is not in use: Leaving on your electronics when you’re not using them can waste a lot of energy. If you MUST leave your computer on, turn off the monitor and speakers. Avoid using standby settings for your electronics because energy is still being used.

Unplug all chargers for laptops and cellphones: Even though your phone isn’t plugged into the charger, small amounts of energy still run through the cord if it is left in the outlet. Larger chargers, such as laptop chargers, take more energy. Also remember that even though your device has been fully charged, the flow of energy hasn’t stopped!

Use rechargeable batteries: Upfront, rechargeable batteries and buying a charger are more expensive, but over time, they save you from constantly buying new batteries. Rechargeable batteries can be reused up to 500 – 1000 times and may cost around $50. Buying that many disposable batteries can cost up to $1000 or more!

 

Assistance Programs

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Energy Savings Kit (ESK): If you are a low-income household in BC, you can be eligible to receive a free energy saving kit from BC Hydro. The energy saving kit gives simple ways to help people reduce their electricity bill and protect the environment. The kit will contain several compact fluorescent light bulbs, wheatherstripping, fridge and freezer thermometers, and an energy-efficient showerhead. These kits are also available for residents living in apartments.

For more information on the Energy Savings Kit, click here.

Energy Conservation Assistance Program: This program aims to help low-income households make saving energy easier. Free of charge, BC Hydro, Fortis BC, and the Energy Conservation Assistance Program will provide personalized home-energy evaluations, installations of energy-efficient products, and personal energy-saving tips for your home and family.

For more information about the Energy Conservation Assistance Program, click here.

 

Want To Save More?

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For even more tips and details on being power smart, visit the following links: 

 

The Benefits Of Meal Planning

When it comes to saving money and eating healthy, meal planning is the best option to achieve both these goals. Listed below are the benefits of meal planning!

1) Saves Money

  • With all your meals planned out, you will only need to make one trip to the store – this will save you gas and reduce your chances of impulse buying!
  • Take advantage of in-season and sales at grocery stores!
  • Avoids duplicate purchases – you will already know what you have at home!
  • Reduce your urge to order take-out/go out

2) Eating Healthier

  • You know what you are putting in your body by planning your meal!
  • What can be healthier than home-cooked meals with fresh and nutritious ingredients?

3) Saves Time

  • It may take over 30 minutes the first time you attempt, but as you implement meal planning, you will be able to do it in less than 3o minutes
  • You will have a shopping list – you can quickly go to grocery store and get what you need
  • You will spend time preparing and cooking instead of wasting time thinking of what to cook!

4) Reduces Food Waste

  • As we all know, food not consumed with shelf-life = spoilage
  • With meal planning, you will check what you have at home so you won’t be making duplicate purchases
  • You can also plan a day in your meal plan to eat left-overs!

5) Reduces Your Stress

  • No more standing in front of the open fridge not knowing what to cook!
  • No more rushing to the grocery store for missed ingredients!
  • You will have a plan on what you are cooking for that day and it will all be available for you at home!

6) Improves Family Relationships

  • Plan your meals around food the family enjoys eating
  • With their favourite food at the table, family members will enjoy dinner and can have conversations!

7) Creates Variety

  • Keep track of a master list – you can use this list to create variety for your meal planning
  • Once in a while, try out new recipes!

Fun activity to try with the kids: write out meals on flash cards, creating a deck. When you’re planning your week’s meals, ask the kids to shuffle the deck and pick ones at random so they feel like they have some input in decisions.

How To Be A Smart Shopper

There are many ways to be a smart shopper. Here are some tips that you can keep in mind when you are shopping!

  1. Have a plan. It is very important to plan your grocery list and know what you are planning to buy. You can either write your grocery list on paper, or have it typed on your phone; anything that is pocket sized so it is convenient to carry around. Planning your list will help to avoid impulse buys, buying too much, buying too little, buying things you already have, and not forgetting to buy things you have run out of.
  2. Compare the prices. If you going through different supermarkets, keep in mind the prices of the items you are going to buy. Some ingredients will be cheaper in different supermarkets. Try looking through flyers in the mail or on stores’ websites in order to find the best price and compare easily.
  3. Look at Unit Price. When you are buying in bundles, it is great to know what one unit costs. For example, diapers! Take the Total Price and divide that by the Quantity; that way you can get an idea of how much one unit costs.
  4. Buy Sale Items. Once in a while, supermarkets will have huge deals because they are either coming close to an expiry date, or it is just a huge promotion. Normally, sale items will be printed on a red piece of paper that screams “On Sale!” But be careful! Sometimes, items that are on sale do not always mean that they are a good deal (or are good for you)! Therefore it is important to keep track of the sales stores are having, keeping in mind what you truly need. 
  5. Keep your Receipts. This will allow you to track down your expenses. Also, it will give an idea on how much you are spending on groceries every week. Knowing the total amount you spend can help to create a budget for yourself, and hopefully stick to that! Click here for a budgeting template.

Other Resources:

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ow.ly/upg1t

Wealthy Wednesdays: 7 Smart Shopping Tips

Happy Wednesday!

Have you noticed that the contents of your shopping cart vary according to your hunger level? Most people, including myself, tend to make more impulse purchases when grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The result? Less healthy choices AND a larger grocery bill! Both are undesirable, but completely avoidable. Here’s how:

1. Set a budget before you buy
As we discussed in our workshops, budgeting is a crucial part of financial management. Before you set foot in a store, think of a reasonable monthly shopping budget based off of your income, number of people you need to feed, and financial goals. If you’re unsure of where to start, add up all your grocery receipts for a month to see what you usually spend. Either make it a goal to reduce it (by a certain dollar amount or percent) or try to stay the same.

2. Plan your trip
Make a list to help you stay on track during your shopping session. Although it can be difficult to avoid the temptations of junk food while in the store, a list can help guide your decisions. Not sure what you put on your list? Plan your meals ahead of time so you know what you need to add to your list and to avoid multiple shopping trips. This will help you keep track from both a budgeting and health standpoint. Another bonus of planning your trip is that you can more effectively use coupons, something we spoke about last week.

3. Shop the perimeter
When grocery shopping, a good rule of thumb is to remain mostly in the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where we find the foods that are fresh and nutrient dense. Most of the sugary and over processed foods are located in the center aisles of the store.

4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach 
Almost anything will look delicious when your stomach is growling. This could be a good thing if you were at a salad bar, but not so good when you’re surrounded by cookies. Try to plan your shopping trips so they are after a meal. If that’s difficult, have a small healthy snack (think veggie sticks or a small handful of nuts) and bring a water bottle with you when you shop.

5. Bulk up
Buying things in bulk is a great way to save, especially if you only need a small quantity of a certain item. Buying in bulk is also a lower risk way to try new foods. Curious about quinoa or bulgar but you don’t want to buy an entire bag? Buy a few servings worth in bulk first!

6. Buy in season
Food is usually cheaper (and can even be more nutritious and tastier!) when it’s in season. For example, apples and squashes would be a great choice in the fall, and berries and peaches would be a great choice in the summer. Check out this website for more info on in season food: http://www.eattheseasons.com/

7. Take your time – at first
Don’t rush through your shopping session.  Take the time to read labels and understand what you are buying. This will help you optimize your spending for both affordability and healthiness. Its a common misconception that healthy food is ALWAYS pricier than junk food, but this is not always the case. If you are rushing around the grocery store, you are not taking the time to KNOW what you are buying. Your shopping trips may be longer in the beginning, but once you get to know your store and products, grocery shopping can be a rewarding experience when you are armed with the proper knowledge.

Do you have any other great shopping tips? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Photo from http://thesmarterwallet.com