Jun 112014
 

Long time readers will know that I like to share practical ways to save money that you won’t find on any other finance blog :) Well I hope you like frugal recipe ideas, because today I will show you how to make a Toast Sandwich. This classic recipe dates back to the Victorian era. Invented in the 19th century in the UK, the toast sandwich is known for being the cheapest lunchtime meal ever. In 2011 Britain’s scientists from the Royal Society of Chemistry cited the cost of each sandwich to be just 7.5 UK pence, which is about 13 cents US.  Jesus Crust that is cheap! 8-O It’s also ridiculously simple to prepare and find the ingredients for. So let’s get started!

Ingredients:
bread
butter
salt
Cooking Instructions:
1) Spread butter on a slice of bread
2) Add salt to taste and toast the bread
3) Place the toast between two other slices of bread

And that’s how you make a toast sandwich :D Below is a picture of one I just made. For a healthier twist, I used whole wheat instead of plain white bread. Total cost was about $0.25.

14-06-toastsandwich

This frugal recipe is a smashing success! It tastes surprisingly good for what it is :) The crunchiness of the toast combined with the soft texture of the bread actually works well together. The savoriness from the salt helps to bring out the flavors of the toast and melted butter. I would say it’s a bit on the dry side. But it’s more filling than a salad, so its got that goin’ for it, which is nice ;)  Overall I give this recipe 4 out of 5 :D You can’t really ask for a better dish for the price of literally a quarter!

Cent for cent this is the best value money can buy, which makes it an ideal recession food. This traditional recipe has been passed down by frugal British families for generations. And now you know it too! So the next time you feel a bit peckish but have run out of eggs and mayo there’s no knead to sulk and loaf around :P Just make yourself a toast sandwich! Om nom nom (゜∀゜)

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Random Useless Fact: 

According to recruiting company Simply Hired the average bread scientist makes $47,000 USD a year

14-06-bread-scientist toast sandwich

Jul 072013
 

If you drive here’s an easy way to save some money. One common problem that faces many drivers is finding parking space. Over time I have developed a very simple strategy to quickly find an empty space in a somewhat crowded parking lot. It’s pretty obvious but here it is anyway.

I basically go for a stall that’s near the entrance/exit of the parking lot :D That’s pretty much it. The idea is to park the car ASAP and minimize the amount of time and distance it has to travel within the lot. Most people would probably try to find a spot near the front of the store or entrance but that’s also the busiest area of the lot. Sometimes people circle around and around, wasting money, time, and polluting the environment :( just so they can save seconds off their walk *pfft*

When I drive to work I normally park in one of the stalls closest to the parkade garage door since we don’t have assigned stall numbers. Then it’s a brisk 30 meter (100 ft) walk to the stairs, which takes all of 20 seconds or so. Instead of trying to find a parking spot closer to the stairway entrance I save about 60 meters of fuel per day (^_^) The current price of gasoline here in Vancouver, BC is about $1.45/L ($5.5/gallon) and my car’s fuel economy is about 11 Km/L (26MPG.) This means I save about 4 cents a week on gas! (゜∀゜) And that only accounts for work. Supermarkets as you can imagine have huge parking lots :D Sometimes I save almost 200 meters of gas when I go shopping at Costco! (✌゚∀゚) Because 100 meters each way. In the diagram below the green arrows near the left point to where I would park.

13_07_parking_savings

The only downside with parking further away is you have to walk more. But doctors say walking is good for you :) I work 8 hours a day sitting in front a computer desk so I’ll take the fresh air whenever I can :0) Continue reading »

Jun 032012
 

Last week I shared a couple of tips to buy food on the cheap. Now I will reveal another way to save.

I shop at Costco. Buying groceries in bulk is a great way to save money. A tray of 48 pork sausages only costs $13. Three loaves of bread for only $7. They always have food items on special as well. For bulk perishable items I would split them up into smaller portions and freeze them. Below are some groceries I bought from Costco this year. Some items have already been partially consumed. By the way, I don’t recommend reading the rest of this post on an empty stomach.

It costs $55 a year for the privilege of shopping there but you get two Costco cards, and it’s totally worth it if you split the cost with a friend. It’s good to know where to buy cheap groceries like those ribs from the previous post for only $3.08. And all those food from the produce market; 2 potatoes for just 65 cents. But what kind of recipes can we prepare from these cheap ingredients? Well by mixing together different items from different stores we can make some pretty cheap, healthy, and delicious dishes. I’m not a very good cook, but I’ve been taking pictures over the last week of what I’ve been eating at home to demonstrate some simple recipe ideas anyone can make.

As you can see these dishes used the ingredients mentioned earlier in this post and in the one before so the numbers are all calculated based on real prices. Most meals like these only cost around $1 to make. So if we eat 3 meals a day, plus a snack, then each month our grocery bill would only be around $100. But in reality it may fluctuate because sometimes we can treat ourselves and spend more. But other times we might skip a meal or go to a restaurant instead which won’t count as grocery spending. The point is if we wanted to, we could live quite comfortably on $100 a month for all our food needs. Not bad, considering the average Canadian spends over $300 a month for all food expenses, (includes eating out.)

My BMI is around 23 so I’m not underweight. I normally consume around 1800 calories a day so I’m not malnourished either. I would say my diet is pretty balanced overall. So spending less doesn’t necessarily mean depriving ourselves of anything important. Last week I mentioned the average consumer spends about $205 a month on grocery shopping but I only spend half as much as that. Now you know how. And you can do the same (^o^). Just remember these 3 simple suggestions. 1) Buy fruit and veggies from small produce markets. 2) Buy meat products when they go on sale. 3) Buy everything else from a wholesaler.  Just because we live in an expensive city doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money to enjoy what it has to offer (^_-)

May 312012
 

This is all about grocery savings. How much do you normally spend on groceries each month? According to an OSEC report Canadians spent about 84 billion on groceries in 2010. On average that’s roughly $205 a month per person. :-) According to the US department of Agriculture, the average American in 2009 spent around $150 a month from food stores. That’s because food is generally cheaper to buy in the States.

To save money on food we have to change our spending habits, not our eating habits. What we buy is not as significant as where and when we buy them. I eat just as much food as the average person, but I only spend about half the amount as the average Canadian on grocery shopping. How? It’s as easy as pie.

For fresh produce and grown foods most consumers buy them at large grocery chains (Save-On.., IGA, Superstore, Safeway, Sobeys, etc) But these mainstream stores are more expensive than those smaller, local markets you sometimes see around town. How much can you save if you buy food from a smaller store rather than a big retailer? I carried out an experiment earlier this month to find out.

First, lettuce look at the following items I bought at Safeway. I picked Safeway because it’s an international name that most people would recognize (I hope.) Click images below to enlarge them.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $16.73. Close up of receipt on right.

Okay, not very cheap as expected. Welcome to Vancouver. You might find a better deal from IGA or a Loblaws but it still wont cut your monthly grocery bill in half. So now let’s see what happened when I bought the same goods from a small, independent produce store.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $5.64. Close up of receipt on right.

I know the items aren’t exactly the same. But I did my best to create a fair comparison. I tried to keep the weights the same. Looking past the minor inaccuracies of this experiment it’s easy to see that the smaller independent store is cheaper, much cheaper, like literally 1/3 of the price of a large franchise. I’m not big on brand loyalty when it comes to food. As long as there’s nothing wrong with it, celery is celery to me, no matter where I buy it from. Sometimes the quality of goods in smaller stores aren’t the best, and you have to eat them quickly before they go bad, but if you make frequent trips to the store this isn’t a big deal. The other issues some people may not like about shopping in smaller stores, is the lack of choices, lack of sanitation, and lack of customer service. But if you know exactly what you want, don’t have to ask for directions, and wash your food before eating it anyway, then be a smart cookie and support your local small food businesses. Besides, their cheap prices just can’t be beet.

This is the small store I went to for the experiment. They’re called “Consumers Produce”

The Safeway I visited is the one on 3410 Kingsway. What’s interesting though is that the small produce market, Consumers Produce (above,) is located at 3388 Kingsway. The address is actually on the receipt if you look closely.  Yes, the two stores are literally on the same city block. And yet the goods in one store is 3 times as expensive as the other and they are still able to compete with each other. Either there are a lot of loyal customers who value Safeway’s shopping experience, or they don’t know about this little store just a few buildings down the street.

WTF? Huge price difference.

So now you know my secret. Saving money on your next food bill is literally as easy as walking into a cheaper store. I’ve heard other ideas like clip coupons, plan multiple trips, price match, or prepare a list, which all takes time, commitment, and energy. But by just going into a smaller independent grocer you automatically save more than all those other shopping tips put together, without even having to think about it. Piece of cake.

Examples of a couple other independent markets around town. They exist in other cities all across North America too. There’s probably one near you!

Of course I don’t mean to turnip my nose at large grocery chains. They still have a purpose after all. They may not offer the best deals on produce or groceries, but I do sometimes buy meat products from them, especially when they’re on sale.

The DVD is to show scale only. It did not come with the food.

The best part about most meat is they can be frozen and will last a long time. But I digest. The point is by buying food from the right places, and waiting for certain things to go on sale, we can already spend less than 50% of what most people are paying for food in this country. In part 2, I’ll write about how I buy other types of groceries for cheap and share some simple meal ideas with everyone. Continue reading part 2…

 

 

Dec 052011
 

It’s December and feels like winter is here. But one benefit of living in an apartment is that my unit is pretty much a box with 5 of its 6 sides touching either someone else’s unit, or the hallway. Which means I don’t have to turn on my baseboard heaters during Winter. This takes no work on my part, and it saves money. Here is a historic look at my energy bill, taken from my electricity provider’s website. (BC Hydro)

 hydro_bill_2011    My usage has been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. No spikes during winter months. By not turning on the heat, even in January, my utility bill year round is really predictable. Even though it’s currently 0° C (32° F) outside, it’s actually a cozy 20° C (68° F) inside. I have to wear more than a t-shirt, but clothes from my closet are free. I’m basically leeching off my neighbors’ electricity (which they pay for)  by absorbing some of their heat through the walls, ceiling, and floor, (but don’t tell them.) This is part of how I’m able to save and invest half my net income.

In the chart above, I used about $22 worth of energy back in Feb 2010. Since then rates have gone up, and BC Hydro wants to further raise electricity rates by 16% over the next 3 years! Inflation can be a pain. But I’d rather save some money now so I can afford a warmer place in the future when I have kids, since utility bills might be twice as expensive by then. Plus, saving energy is better for the environment. Think of all the beavers and polar bears.

Criteria:
*This probably wont work if you’re living with other people.
*Helps if you’re a Canadian. We’re use to cold weather. 
*Won’t work if you live in a house because all sides of a detached home are fully exposed to the cold (brrr)




Estimated Annual Savings by never turning on the heat:$100 (depending on size/location of home)