Maple Alps

Money

How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps11 Comments

The grocery budget. The bane of my existence. I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with the whole grocery budget thing, so I decided to share today about how we cut down our budget without changing our diet.


A few years ago, our grocery bill was pretty much through the roof. For only two people, we were sure spending quite a bit on groceries. Naturally, the bill would be even higher in months like December (Christmas parties galore!) and July (Camping trips, anyone?). We knew we had to make a change and fast.


After we paid off the first third of our student loans back, we decided it was time to really be tight with our grocery budget and we have thus far been successful. In fact, our way of looking at our budget has simplified altogether as a result of this and managing and saving money has never been easier. I decided to focus on the grocery part of things today. Stay tuned for a budgeting post!

How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food | www.maplealps.com




What Is Included in my Grocery Budget?

For us, “grocery” includes anything that we eat and any other expendables such as toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc.). Basically anything you can get at your local grocery store that is a necessary consumable for survival. So if you have kiddos and choose to buy diapers, that would fall under that category, and for a cat, food and litter would also fall under this category.




How Much is in my Grocery Budget?

For our budget, our rule of thumb is $100/month per person who lives in our house. You will probably want to consider pets as well as they have food and waste needs as well. We count our fur baby as half a person at $50/month and we never actually end up spending that much on her. This keeps things SUPER simple, because you’re only thinking about one number to stay under per week!




Being Strict About Shopping

In order to keep this realistic, it is EXTREMELY important that you only go to the grocery store once a week, or once every two weeks. Have you ever noticed that every time you go to the store you end up dropping anywhere between $30 and $50 a time? Yes. That is why you need to be strict with yourself and only go once a week.


I get it, you might run out of milk or something. So write it down, and go to the store and ONLY BUY MILK! Keep those blinders on!


Writing lists also helps you use coupons effectively if you do that to save money.




Related: How Not to go Broke From Buying Groceries




Make A Meal Plan and Shopping List

This is key if you want to stick to the once a week shopping trip. That one time a week trip needs to be guided by a strict shopping list. I get it, you forget to write things down sometimes, but try to visualize everything you will need for the week as you plan and write the grocery list down. Then, when you go to the store, stick to it! We also keep a running shopping list on our fridge. So when we run out of things like ketchup or salad dressing, we can add it to the list quickly and easily.



Meal Planning Guide | www.maplealps.com




Related: Confessions of a Meal Planner




Shopping Our Kitchen

Every few months, we make it a point to shop our kitchen for our meal plans. This essentially means that we try to use up everything in our pantry and freezer before buying more. I know that a lot of people like to keep a fully stocked pantry, however, sometimes this leaves you prone to buying too many duplicates or forgetting what you have. We make sure that our pantry is laid out in a way that we can see everything we have when we open the door. We use clear glass containers so we can see the amounts of everything we have as well. We use up our things before adding them to the list.


By doing this, we have also been able to take better note of what items we use more than others and know what we need to write down on the list. Some items are only bought once for an experiment or special event and never needed again.




Related: Confessions of a Meal Planner Part 2




Eat A Lot of Fresh Produce

Getting in your share of veggies actually helps you keep your budget down! Targeting fruits and vegetables that are in season is really great for your budget, and your body as well! Processed food - especially the plant based kind - can be pricey!



Related: 10 Apps and Extensions We Use to Save Money



Making/Growing Our Own Staples

I’ve learned how to make a few of our staples which has cut down on our grocery bill. Bread is the one that has saved us the most so far, since my husband likes heavier bread being from Europe and all. Things like ketchup and almond milk cost about the same to make as to buy (I’ve done the math and it’s true for our area unless the ingredients are on sale).


I know a lot of people who save a lot on their grocery budget by growing their own food! We haven’t done this yet for ourselves since I have a black thumb...



Shop Sales Strategically

Buy more of your staples when they are on sale, and avoid the sales of things you don’t generally eat - unless you have it on your meal plan or know for sure you will eat it. I’ve seen the tendency of people to buy things simply because they are on sale, only to have them go to waste later!

Having Fun and Being Positive

We allow ourselves to have a few splurges a month (like a pint of our favourite vegan ice cream that costs way too much!), but the best thing to keep in mind is not that you are restricting your budget, but that you are creating a way of life that keeps you mindful of everything you spend and everything you eat! It’s a good thing-trust me.





Controlling your grocery spending can be hard to do, but I believe in you! Reduce your spending and increase your savings! It will be worth it.


 
Meal Planning Guide | www.maplealps.com
 
How We Cut Down Our Grocery Bill Without Cutting Down on Food | www.maplealps.com #groceries #savemoney #budget

How to Host on a Budget

Lifestyle, MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps4 Comments

After publishing my mini hospitality series and this post here, I was inspired to share some more tips and ideas on the topic of hosting and hospitality. Budget is always something that I try to be mindful of because if I’m not, money starts disappearing. Well, not really, but you get what I’m trying to say.

I am passionate about the topic of hospitality and I so wish it was something that was practiced more! Gathering together is such an encouraging thing - even for an introvert like myself. It’s so important to cultivate the culture or fellowship, and this is one way that is often overlooked in this age of technology.

Today, I want to share some more practical tips about hosting others, but this time on the topic of finances. Is it possible to have guests over and stay within your budget? Absolutely!

How to Host on a Budget | www.maplealps.com

Choose simple meals you are familiar with

When you’re hosting someone intentionally, what food you serve is not as important as how you serve and encourage hearts. Choose a simple, healthy meal that will not leave anyone feeling too heavy. Also, choose a meal you are comfortable cooking - nights you are hosting are not the nights you should experiment with a new dish. You might end up tossing it and going back to something easy anyway, so save your pennies on a simple meal! Some of my favourites are:

Roasted Garlic Pasta, Green Beans, Bread, and a Salad!

Fruit for dessert with some easy cookies or homemade ice cream

 

Meal plan accordingly

There is no need to go overboard with the amount of food you serve. Plan accordingly for your amount of guests (and you!).

 

Set a Budget and Shop smart

Without setting a budget, there will be no boundaries to the amount you spend. That being said, there is no reason to go overboard or over your budget when picking up groceries. Check for coupons, and don’t go shopping when you’re hungry! Also, check your pantry before you leave!

 

Related: How Not to Go Broke From Buying Groceries

 

Pick flowers from your own garden

While not necessary, flowers are nice to have to create a welcoming environment. Depending on the season, rather than buying flowers, clip some from your own garden (or sit outside and enjoy the garden!). You don’t have to buy expensive blooms to have them appreciated.

 

Use cloth napkins

We always host with cloth napkins because we don’t buy paper ones in an effort to reduce our waste production. But the cloth version helps with the budget too! They don’t cost much extra to wash because we just throw them in with the rest of the kitchen linens anyway, and they can be used over and over again! It’s a great plus that they’re pretty! Just make sure they’re nice and clean before giving them to a guest.

 

Consider a potluck if appropriate

If there is no way you can accommodate everyone, or there is an extremely large group coming, consider asking for help! Make it a potluck so no one feels awkward - where everyone brings their favourite side or dish. You can even assign items so you have more control over the menu. It’s always fun to sample different dishes, and most people don’t mind bringing something to share!


 


How do you host on a budget? Any tips?


 

 

Clean Up Your Budget This Spring

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps4 Comments

Of course, the title of this post is about cleaning up your budget, so it is assuming you have already have one, but if you don't have one and want to use your money intentionally, you definitely need a budget (post on that coming)! It's never too late to make one and never the wrong time of year to clean it up a little bit. 

Spring Clean Your Budget | www.maplealps.com
 

Evaluate your spending and make a list of your expenses.

Ideally you've been tracking all of your spending already, so take a look at your numbers. Make a list of your necessary expenses - the nonnegotiable ones that you can't change such as rent/mortgage and other bills. Assess your spending.

 

Clean Out Your Un-Needed Expenses and reorganize:

Maybe you can cut back on your gas and electricity consumption, or perhaps you decide that your monthly manicure isn't completely necessary. Maybe your life situation has changed since you last created your budget and you can cut back in different ways. Here are a few other ideas:

Make Your Own Lunch: Leftovers work great for this - make a little extra the night before and put it in a container for the next day right away. Not into leftovers? Make a fresh salad or a sandwich - or something completely complicated, but fresh!

Skip the Daily Coffee Shop Visit: While your daily visits for coffee won't make you broke, you can save hundreds of dollars a year by making your own! Buy a reusable coffee mug that keeps your beverage of choice hot (or cold) for a long period of time. I make myself some herbal tea every morning before heading off to work, and my mug is a permanent fixture on my desk. If it’s not there, I have very concerned students who ask if I had a rough morning…

Quit a Subscription: Whether it’s Netflix, a gym membership, or a magazine, you may want to reevaluate the value of some of your subscriptions.

Start to Meal Plan: Save on your grocery bill by meal planning and shopping what you already have in your fridge and pantry. Save money AND keep food from spoiling!

Related: Cut Down on your Grocery Bill Without Cutting Back on Food

 

Make Goals

Now that you have cleaned up your expenses and hopefully have some left over, go ahead and start thinking about what your goals are! Maybe you can set aside that extra cash to save up for something you really want or need, or pay off a large chunk of debt you have.

 

 

Did you add your budget to your Spring Cleaning list? It's never too late!


 

Eating Cleaner on a Budget

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps13 Comments

One of the things I hear most from people when we talk about eating clean or healthy is, “but I can’t afford to eat healthily!”

I honestly used to think the same way, but now I know that everything is doable on a budget - you just have to prioritize and do a little research! Below are a few of my favourite ways to eat clean on a budget. 

Eating Cleaner on a Budget | www.maplealps.com

 

Use Your Freezer

There are so many great foods that freeze so well! When I stock up on our favourite staples, I always consider how well it keeps. Since there are only two of us, our freezer gets a lot of use. Some favourites to stock in there are spinach, kale, tofu, beans, nuts(!), and tomatoes.

 

Plan Ahead

Make a meal plan to most effectively use your groceries.

 

Eat less meat/Be a vegetarian

We choose to not eat any meat at all and it has cut down on our grocery bill. Yes, while there are meat substitutes out there that are wildly expensive, we choose to greatly limit these as well and opt for making it from scratch or only having it once in a blue moon (a.k.a. When there is a crazy sale). Most meat substitutes found in stores are highly processed and full of sodium anyway, and aren’t the best for you!

Eating Cleaner on a Budget | www.maplealps.com

 

Consider a Homemade Pantry

Pancake mixes, cake mixes, canned beans….all of these things and more you can do yourself! It’s actually simple, takes the same amount of time as it would to go to the store and buy them, and is much better for both your wallet and your body! One cookbook I use that helps me greatly is The Homemade Vegan Pantry. I love all of the ideas in it and adapt them for my own use.

 

Save Your Scraps 

Don’t waste those onion skins and celery and carrot ends! Collect them and store them in your freezer and make a simple vegetable broth (that can also be frozen, by the way!). That saves on having to buy veggie stock.

 

Reusable Water Bottles

If drinking more water is in your cleaner eating plan, skip buying the bottled water and the extra sugar and calories from bottled juices and invest in a good quality reusable water bottle. Pay next to nothing and stay hydrated - it’s a no-brainer and a win-win.

Eating Cleaner on a Budget | www.maplealps.com



Shop in Season and Locally

Start paying attention to what is in season for cheaper produce. Shopping locally will not only give you a great deal but also help your local farms and community! Your freezer comes in handy for this as well - so much produce, depending on what you want to do with it later - can be frozen until you're ready for it. That way, it doesn't go to waste.

 

Skip Organic Produce in Some Cases

If you've ever heard of the dirty dozen then you'll know that there are some foods that you can skip in the organic section, and some you probably shouldn't. Your decision!

 

Try Store Brands

So many grocery stores offer high-quality organic food for less [enter applause]! 

 

Don't Forget Apps!

Using apps to save me money has really paid off over the last few years - no pun intended! One of my favourite rebate apps for grocery shopping is Ibotta and I love it! By the way: Use my referral link to download Ibotta and get a $10 welcome bonus!

 

Eating clean doesn't have to make you go broke by any means! With a little extra effort, you can make your dollars stretch!

 
Eating clean on a budget is easier than you thought!
 

How do you eat clean on a budget?


 
 

What You Can Do with $7.99/month That Doesn't Involve Netflix

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps5 Comments

I wrote about some things to do instead of streaming television shows a while ago with the angle of time and our minds being precious. What I didn't talk about was the other thing streaming sites like the popular Netflix takes from us: our money. As Christians, we are called to be stewards of our money, resources and time, and in fact, none of those things truly belong to us. They were entrusted to us to use for God's work.

Here are some things you can do with $7.99 that doesn't involve Netflix (though I heard prices for that have been going up, so $7.99 might not even be enough for that!)!

 

Take a friend out on a cafe date

Get some tea and talk about the wonderful things God has been doing in your lives. 

Rent a bicycle and explore parts of the city you have not before

See your city through new eyes, and meet and talk to people you may not have ever thought to. Using your legs is free though! :) 

Go to the dollar store and put together a package to mail to a friend

Even the smallest of surprises in the mail can bring joy and encouragement to a friend.

Buy some stamps and send out some cards

Bless others by letting them know you are thinking about and praying for them!

Buy a meal for someone in need

And pray for and with that person.

Join a gym

I actually know someone who used Netflix money for a very basic gym membership instead! Turns out those exist!

Put it into your savings account

You'll have a pretty good amount by the end of the year to use for a good cause or pay off a chunk of debt.
 


What creative things would you do for $7.99 that doesn't involve streaming?