Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cheap Cooking: Tomato Pork Penne dish

I have this odd obsession with getting my groceries for really cheap. Some people look at me odd when I tell them that I won't pay over $4.50 for a brick of cheese, or more than $2 for a loaf of bread (I get the good stuff, for the record). I think that it pays off, for me. Especially since I have financially based goals, and I would like to acheive them before I need a walker.

So for dinner last night, I made a dish that was probably one of my cheapest ever. Mind you, it is also the first time that I wrote down what I paid for each item I used, so time will tell. I plan on keeping approximate track of a lot of the meals I make, mostly out of curiosity.

With no further ado, I present: my dinner from last night

Ingredients:

1 box Catelli Smart penne (1.49$)
1 can Aylmer Accents tomatoes (0.49$)
2 celery stalks (whole thing was 1.27$, so approx. 0.20$)
1 red bell pepper (1.99$/lb, approx 1$)
2 carrots (approx 0.50$)
7 thin boneless pork chops (2.22$ - had a 50% off sticker... my favourite!)
salt/pepper/crushed chilis/sage to taste (equiv approx 0.05$)
125g shredded marble cheese (1$)

Total cost for entire meal: 6.95$

It made 5 servings (so two bag lunches for me, leading to further savings!) making each serving cost: $1.39.

You can't buy a burger for that cheap and expect to be full, so I'd say I'm pretty happy! I'm sure I will be able to work towards making meals for less than 1$ per serving, but 1.39$ is nothing to sneeze at.

Not to mention that these are MY serving sizes. Actual "servings" according to weight and whatnot is probably closer to 8, which would make each "serving" 0.87$ each. That's pretty fantastic.

What are you cooking for dinner tonight? Do you keep track of how much you spend on everything? Do your serving sizes and the "recommended serving sizes" match up?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Five of My Favourite Ways to Save Cash!

Time for a small confession (that may not be so small, or secret...).

I really, really, really hate working in an office. I mean really. Like how much I hate Barney, that's how much I hate working in an office. So my intention in life, and in my everyday experiences, is to work towards a time where I no longer have to work for "The Man" (or "The Woman" either way, they suck.)

Saving my cold, hard-earned cash is important to me. I like to have the freedom to be able to spend as much money as I want every now and then, and that means small sacrifices for the greater good (of my sanity).

1. Starbucks does make some fantastic espresso beverages... but their regular coffee is just as good. Especially now that they have the blonde roast. Experienced and haughty coffee drinkers be damned, I'll take my more caffeinated, lighter tasting coffee over the bold, chewy coffee any day.

Even then, I drink my Starbucks coffee only once (maybe twice) a week. Otherwise, I make a cup at home, and I have my beautiful French Press (or Bodum... not sure if there's a difference) at work for those caffeine jitters that just won't quit. Mmmm... coffee.

2. Secondhand shopping. No big deal! Thrift stores are my favourite place to pick up lost treasures. From clothes to yarn and knitting needles to toys (for Lil Munchkin) and beyond. You never know what you'll find, and sometimes it is NOICE stuff! I've found Danier leather jackets, brand new Suzy Shier tops, and so, so much more.

3. Keep up with the newest deals on a forum (my drug of choice is Smart Canucks for all my deal-tracking and searching needs). First of all, the weekly grocery flyers are posted at least a day before the sales start. Second, there are new deals and freebies and samples posted daily. Third, it's a great community that really pulls together and helps each other.

4. Reusable stuff. Plastic/styrofoam plates/cups? Not in my house (or apartment... whatever). The closest to disposable housewares we have are some plastic cups and utensils that are washed and reused. Some of the plastic utensils are from fast food joints, we just bring them home. Lil Munchkin uses them in her lunch, so if she loses it, no big deal.

Paper towels? Only for nasty messes. Swiffer? No thanks, I'll use my pouffy duster, and a broom. Works like a charm, easy and fun, no garbage. Not to mention way less money spent on stuff that is destined for the trash (literally).

5. Fixing things myself (or the WonderWife does it...). When things break, most people just go out and buy a new one. Ripped seam in your pants/shirt? Chuck it, buy new. Not in my home.

Clothing repairs, fixture repairs (whatever is not covered by the lease), making do. WonderWife and I make a good duo when it comes to making repairs and temporary fixes. She will bust out her toolkit and fix anything, or just fiddle with it until it cooperates (stupid DVD player...). I will sew/knit/crochet/tape clothing back into a wearable state. When WW got a rip in her new work jacket (cursed hard work, why must you wear holes in her clothes...) I cut out a patch from old jeans and sewed it on. It's not pretty, but it works. Dog chewed up my winter hat (known in Canada as a toque), I crocheted a new one. (pic to come)

So there you have it. My current five favourite ways to save money. I have way more ideas, tips, tricks, and psychotic trips, but those can wait for another day. For now, I will keep on trucking. Working my way toward no-longer-needing-a-job-dom, one penny at a time.

Feel free to share your favourite money saving tips, no matter how crazy or normal they may be. You never know who will be inspired.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Feminism Rant

I'm feeling feminist-y. Like taking on the struggles of women across the globe on my shoulders. Then I think about it, and realize that there is no easy way to fix the inequality that is around us all.

Women and girls are dehumanized in the media, shamed in fashion and clothing, and told that the entirety of our worth and value rests in how we look at the "peak" of our beauty.

Seriously? Just because we have ovaries and a uterus, can create (with help) and carry life in our bodies, then sustain them for the first year (and change) of their lives with no external help (other than our own food)? 
Thank you Google Search for these fine images












Ladies, girls, women, females, femmes, whatever you want to call yourselves, there is no reason to allow people to treat you like a second, less important species. Whether you were born female or live as one, you are just as important as the rest of the human race. There is nothing wrong with being emotional, having feelings, or anything else that some people consider "weakness".

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with males, men, boys, or gentlemen to express their own feelings, to cry, to express. Because experiencing and accepting your emotions is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

I have to admit, I am 100% thankful that I live in a country that allows women the freedom to vote, wear pants, express their opinions, and generally have most of the freedoms that our "dangly parted" counter-sex enjoys. However, we are still a far cry from equal.

Now, I am going to say that equal does not mean the same, and neither does fairly. I don't think that anyone, female or male, should be treated as completely the same, because we are not the same. But I do think that all people, male/female/trans, deserve to be treated as equal in their own differences.



My two cents for today, Valentine's Day, is that everyone should be loved for who they are, in the exact shape/size/style/quirkiness that they are. Love yourself, because you are worth it. Be yourself, everyone else is taken(Oscar Wilde).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why Is Shopping For Girls Clothing Getting So...

Shopping for little girls is becoming increasingly challenging for anyone with taste and morals who doesn't want to end up raising a Prosti-Tot. It seems like pigeon-holing children is getting more and more severe every month/week/day/hour, and there's nothing tasteful left. How sad is that?

Not the look I'm going for















My daughter is 7 years old. She was the shortest in her class for a long time (thanks to a certain sperm-donor who shall remain soul-less...) but she has caught up and even surpasses many of her fellow 7-year-old compadr├ęs. Mostly in the legs. She's got long legs, and that is a great thing, because she puts me to shame in the running department. (I blame my asthma, but really I'm just exceptionally lazy and out of shape).

Her Amazonian legs also make it bloody impossible to find shorts that don't make her look like a Hooters waitress in training. Maybe it's because I have thick thighs (not hating on them, I loves my curves), but shorts never looked so... short on me. Until now, when the shorts they have out make my thick thighs look like I'm going for a Wonder Woman look.

Not that she doesn't look great...















So instead of buying her shorts, with the exception of Bermuda shorts, I'm going to be practicing my useful (yet non-existant) homemaking skills by turning her pants that are too small (but only in the legs... remember, all her growth has been in her legs, not her hips) and turning them into "just above the knee" shorts. Much better. Maybe I'll get fancy and they'll end up with hems, maybe not. We'll see how courageous I get.



Seriously, she's going to end
up withlegs like this if
she keeps growing the
way she is...



Then there's the shirt debacle which has been fairly widespread across various types of media, from blogs, to newssites, to bloggy newssites, and beyond. It's shirts like this one that make me a little stabby in the brain, and also make me wonder WTF the designers are thinking. Then I remember that most of them are men (at last check, on average 90-95% of designers are, though I don't have a source for that ATM) and are clearly misogynistic (definition: effing stupid) and think that us ladies are stupid and good for nothing but looking pretty.


They forgot make-up and clothing!















Everyone knows that girls don't need to be smart or unique or funny or even logical, they're just there for looking pretty right? That's why the size 6x for girls is too small for my daughter, but the boys 6 (note: smaller than 6x) fits her perfectly? Retailers: starting size complexes in children earlier than ever!

My daughter is a girl. She is even a girly-girl. She loves to dress up, and over-do it. She loves putting on those tacky plastic dress-up shoes, and she loves to throw a tiara on top of her head. She loves all things that are frilly and lacy and flowy and pouffy.


You think I'm exaggerating?
Yes that's a fluffy pink boa,
she used to have one,
she wore it out...
























But that's not all. She also loves dirt, and frogs, and worms. She loves animals and plants. She loves to learn about the seasons and the stars. She loves music and dancing and singing. Art and painting and making the biggest mess possible just to see how far it will go.

Even more than that, she loves trucks, and comic books, and super heroes. And not those lame girl super heros that are really just eye-candy (you know the ones I mean.) but Wonder Woman, and Iron Man, and Thor, and Spider-Man and all of the Autobots (especially Bumblebee).

So why are a huge majority of the clothes being sold and marketed to her more appropriate for a teenager and up? I just don't understand. She's a kid, kids play in dirt, get messy, run around like tasmanian devils, and grow. Why on earth would I put her in clothing that wouldn't allow her that freedom, or that send the message that she is just a pretty face? She is very beautiful, I know this and have been told by many people. But that's not ALL she is. She's smart, caring, sweet, thoughtful, and sometimes downright ridiculously obnoxious just for the sake of making me tear my hair out. So why the focus on looks?

Why don't we focus on just letting them be kids? Why can't the kids section be amalgamated into one section, so that little girls can buy Iron Man t-shirts and little boys can buy shirts with cupcakes on them without feeling like the Anti-Christ? Because there is nothing more intimidating for a kid than "crossing the pink/blue line" even if it is to find things that they like better.

Shopping for girls, whether for children or for fully grown ladies (and also classy gals like me) is depressing, frustrating, and limiting.

That's all for now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Can Frugal Fashion be eco-Friendly?

Women across the world want to look good. I’m no exception. Granted that my sense of style may be different from the average Canadian, but who’s to judge? Everyone wants to look and feel good when they go through their days, and everyone is going to have a different sense of what looks good. Here are a few ways to stay stylish, save the world, and look good doing it.

~Shop Vintage~

Checking out second hand stores is becoming the new ‘it’ thing. Not only do you find unique items that may be completely sold out or not made anywhere anymore, but you can also find some incredible deals, like vintage tops for less than 5$! I've been pretty lucky on this front, finding a multitude of nice looking, unique, and good quality clothing items for less thank 80% retail value. Nothing like saving money on beautiful clothing!

~Watch for Sales~

Almost every retail store has sales and clearance racks at varying times throughout the year. Most stores with clearance racks almost always have at least a few items on them, so sneak a peak and see if you can find something that suits your style. Many stores will have occasional promotions as well to get you through the doors, and often you can couple the clearance items with these promotions and score pretty huge.

~Shop Off-Season~

If you're in the market for a new winter jacket, buy it at the end of February. If you're aching for a new bathing suit, start shopping in the early fall. The reason for this? Simple, stores want to get rid of their excess off-season items to make room for the new stuff. So to get their goods out the door, they put their items on super clearance. Sometimes you can score brand new items for thrift store prices just by watching at the end of the season. Sure, you'll have to stash it for a few months, but you have just saved yourself a nice big chunk of change.

It's also important to remember that stores will begin increasing their prices through late November and into December as preparation for Christmas shopping, so when you see "Christmas special price!" chances are, it's the pre-inflated price, it just looks like less now since they racked the cost up so much. It is a good business idea, but it is definitely something to watch for as a consumer so that you don't get taken for a ride.

The big red/yellow/whatever colour SALE signs draw me in like flies to honey, but once you're able to determine what you think is a good price for an item and the different ways that stores will try to get you to buy more, it's easier to walk away with empty arms if you don't find what you like.

There's nothing like the high you get from paying next to nothing for bags full of gorgeous clothing. If you're extra crafty (which I am not, yet) then you can even find bolts of fabric at your local thrift store and make your own spunky clothes out of that, saving yourself even more money than making your own clothes saves in the first place! Whoa!

Peace and love,

Laura