Jun. 30, 2008

June Thriftiness

To finish up the month I thought I'd share all the wheels and deals I got this previous month - maybe you'll be inspired!

  • 50% off all merchandise sale at Value Village - I saved $20 off of a $40 purchase

  • Bottle of Fructis Shampoo and bottle of Fructis conditioner (one of the only shampoos I'll spend good money for) - I had a $5 coupon when you buy 3 Fructis products but the cashier let me use it on 2 products - they were on sale as well so I ended up getting them for $1.50 each

  • Iams Cat food - Used a $5 off coupon and got it for $6

  • More Iams Cat food - Used a $5 coupon and got it for $3.98

  • 2L Neilson Milk - got .75 off with coupon

  • Free Liquid Coffee Mate $2.67 value using FPC (free product coupon)

  • Made homemade laundry detergent for .17/jug = approx. $6 savings per jug

  • Ultra Down Fabric Softener - Used a $1 coupon and got it for $3.97

  • Made Homemade Febreze Fabric Freshener for .20/bottle = approx. $6 savings/bottle (20 bottles for $3.97!)

  • Lucky Deal: bought $3 scratch ticket and won $10 ($7 profit)
Total Savings: Approximately $60 (not including all the money I'll be saving in future months using my homemade laundry detergent and homemade Febreze!

Have fun with your thriftiness!

-Love Marylin.

Jun. 8, 2008

Laundry Detergent

This is a recipe for laundry detergent I recently tried with much success... oddly enough, my clothes smelled cleaner than usual after using this.

It's quite simple to make and will cost you fractions of pennies per load. My cost for one batch of this (about 12 liters of detergent - or around 4 regular bottles of store bought detergent at $4.99 on sale) was .68 cents - that's .17 cents/bottle!!!

Plus, you will no longer be putting those harsh chemicals they put in laundry detergent into the water, thus having less impact on the environment and your wallet.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

You Need:

  • 3.1 oz bar Ivory soap (Ivory is a natural pure soap perfect for cleaning)
  • 1 cup Borax
  • ½ cup Washing Soda
  • 3 gallons + 5 cups Water
  • 4-5 Gallon container
  • Grater, knife, or blender
  • Large Pot
  • Long stirring stick or spoon (for 5 gallon container)

  1. Shave/grate/process the soap and place in the pot with 5 cups of water.
  2. Heat the water until it is just about to boil and stir until the soap is completely melted.
  3. Pour 3 gallons of hot water into the 5 gallon container.
  4. Pour the soap and water mixture into the 5 gallon container and stir until well blended.
  5. Add the 1/2 cup washing soda and stir until dissolved. Repeat with the cup of borax.
  6. Once all of the soap shavings are melted, pour the mixture into the 5-gallon container and stir.
  7. Now you may add essential oils for fragrance if you wish (lavender would be a good one).
  8. The mixture should look like hot soapy water. You can either cover the container now and let it sit out of the way overnight, or you can pour the mixture into smaller containers (I use recycled store bought laundry detergent bottles and cat litter containers), cover, and let sit overnight.
  9. The next day it should be cooled and gelled. It will be lumpy and watery. It's ready to use.
  10. Add 1/2 cup of mixture per load of laundry just like you normally would - I just use the laundry bottle lid.
Here's the recipe for Powdered Laundry Detergent, probably a better choice for those who don't have room to store 12 liters worth. I haven't tried this yet, but when I do I will let you all know how it worked. Recipe makes enough for 32 loads.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

You Need:
  • 2/3 bar Laundry Soap (equivalent of 1 cup grated) - you can use the bars of laundry soap they sell at the grocery store or you can use the Ivory soap.
  • ½ Cup Borax
  • ½ Cup Washing Soda
  • Grater or blender
  • Container large enough to hold 2 cups of laundry detergent

  1. Grate or blend the bar soap.
  2. Add the ½ cup of Borax and ½ cup of washing soda.
  3. Shake /mix well.
  4. Add one tablespoon of mixture per load, more for very dirty clothes.

-Love Marylin.

Jun. 6, 2008

Ditch The Fridge

This is a great article by Andrea Pelosa from the Vancouver Observer about how the fridge is not necessarily a necessity.

At the very least, this is great advice to use when there's a power outage.

Ditch The Fridge - http://www.thevancouverobserver.com/show533a/

The less we need to rely on, the better off we are.

-Love Marylin.

May 31, 2008

Cream Of Potato-Broccoli Soup

I saved a bunch of broccoli that was turning yellow and a few potatoes that were turning soft from going to complete waste by creating this cheap and delicious soup.

Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional seasoning (salt, pepper, parsley, nutmeg)

1. Heat onion and garlic in a large pot over medium heat until tender. Add flour and stir for 1-2 minutes.

2. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Add broccoli and potatoes - reduce heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove 1 ½ - 2 cups broccoli/potato mixture with slotted spoon and reserve.

3. Process remaining broccoli/potato mixture in batches in food processor or blender until smooth. Return puree to pot. Stir in reserved broccoli/potato mixture, milk, parmesan cheese, and seasoning. Cover over medium heat until heated through.

4. Remove from heat and serve.

(Makes approximately 12 cups of soup, each cup being 1.5 WW points)

Tastes so good with a dollop of sour cream on top and with these dirt cheap biscuits:

Baking Powder Biscuits

  • 4 cups flour
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp fat (butter, margarine, lard)
  • 1 ½ cup milk
Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together. Rub or cut in fat. Add milk to make a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board to ½” thick. Cut out circles with glass or cookie cutter.

Bake at 450’F for 10 – 15 minutes.

So out of what would have gone in the compost and few things most of us have in our kitchens, I made at least six meals...

Waste not, want not!

-Love Marylin.

May 29, 2008

Save On Groceries


The "used" produce section, as my mum likes to call it, can be a super-savings source in disguise.

This usually consists of fruits and vegetables that are starting to get over-ripe: the worst you'll find is bruised and very soft items and alot of the time you'll find stuff in perfect condition.

Not only can you save money by finding a reduced item here that you were going to buy for regular price, but if you use your imagination, you'll find even more.

Almost any fruit and vegetable can be preserved by freezing, canning, jarring, and drying.

Over-ripe fruit is perfect for baking, making jam, fruit leather, fruit (apple) sauce, and I'm sure alot more.

Things like pineapples, mangos, kiwi, any type of berry - I like to grab these, cut them up and freeze them for baking, smoothies, etc.

Same thing with broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.

Tomatoes here are great for making fresh tomato sauce to freeze, salsa, etc.

Blackened bananas are perfect for baking banana bread, just stick them in the freezer till you wanna use them.

You could most likely find a use anything in this under-rated part of the grocery store.


Even if you're working with a window-sill garden, growing even one product can save you some money - not to mention how much more healthy and satisfying it is!

Start with just one tomato or cucumber plant or be ambitious and start with four or five - give away extras or preserve them so you don't have to purchase, for example, tomatoes, for a very long time.

Even if you're saving just $2 a month, it's still $2 and it's a wonderful experience to grow your own food.

If you're lucky enough to have a yard, the savings could be quite significant.

You could also join a co-op garden, which is a garden that's shared with multiple families.


If you have a Farmer's Market in your town, this is where you'll save big on fresh produce.

Local fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper and more nutritious than what you get at the grocery store and it's nice to support your local farmers.


Take an afternoon and clean out your pantry, freezer, and fridge. Make sure things are clearly labeled so you don't forget you have something and end up buying it twice. Jot down whatever you put back: this is your food inventory list.

If you simply go through the list about once a week or so, taking off items that have been used and adding items that have been purchased, you will always know what's in your kitchen.

I find it easiest to do this right after I've gone shopping - I just look at my receipt and write the stuff down.

This inventory list allows you to quickly check for ingredients you have and don't have for whatever you're planning on making. The list tells you what you're out of so you can add it to your grocery list.

How does this save you money? Well if you know what you have and you know what you need, you won't end up buying something you already have and you won't forget to buy something you need only to have to make another trip.

Having this list will help you utilize ingredients you have on hand, you can look at the list and come up with creative meals, rather than scouring the fridge and cupboards in frustration.

Having this list will let you know that you have an open can of pasta sauce in the fridge and if you don't use it soon it will go bad.

The inventory list has so many good uses and it's relatively easy to keep. I keep mine in notepad under four headings: large freezer, small freezer, fridge, and cupboards.

When you see that you need something, you write it on your grocery list.

The inventory list comes in handy for the next tip.


When people plan their meals, they save a ton of money - it's been proven!

The reason for this is they go into the grocery store with a list of what they need to make their planned meals. They purchase what they need and tend not to make alot of impulse purchases. They make their meals using what they've purchased so nothing goes to waste.

This is how I do it:

Throughout the month, I peruse recipes, and decide on a few meals I'd like to make. I keep the recipe and write down the ingredients I need. Then I check my inventory list and see what ingredient I already have. The ingredients I don't have go on my grocery list.

As the month goes on, I come up with several meals. Sometimes I take a look at my inventory list and see what meals I could make using most of the stuff I already have so that I only need to add one or two items to my grocery list, if any.

I also try to write down what the ingredient is for on my list and how much of it I will need. This way, if I can't find a certain item or if there's an item I can use as a substitute that's on sale, I'll easily be able to do so.

Which brings me to the point of being flexible: definitely plan your meals but be aware of ways in which you can save even more money buy using items that are on sale or in season.

And if you've planned a meal in which the main ingredient is way over-priced, be prepared to save that meal for another time.

Once I've done my shopping, I try to make my meals in order of what ingredients will spoil the soonest, that way nothing goes to waste.

Planning meals allows me to be prepared, save alot of money, and eat a healthy balanced diet.

If you don't plan, you're just simply going to spend more.


My grocery list is an ongoing one - I write down items that I've run out of, like yogurt, cat food, spices, etc. as they run out.

I write down the ingredients I need for next month's meals (as I talked about above).

I write down items that I would like to buy but only if there's a really good sale on them.

And I also write down items for which I have coupons so that if they're on sale I could take advantage of the extra savings.

Next to each item, I write down what it's going to be used for and how much of it I need.

When it's time to do the actually shopping, I try to list the items in some sort of order so that I don't have to run all over the grocery store multiple times.

Without a grocery list, you're basically asking to spend more money. You will go up and down the isles grabbing items that catch your eye or that you think you'll eat, etc. And you may end up utilizing most of what you buy but likely you won't - you'll end up with not enough food or more than you need - it just won't add up and you'll always be trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

You gotta have a list! Especially if you want to plan meals, because planning meals doesn't really work if you don't buy the ingredients you need!


Most people don't redeem coupons and I think that's crazy! That's like throwing away money!

Coupons really add up and you can honest to goddess save as much as 50% or more on your grocery bill - I swear!

Here's what you need to know about using coupons:

-If you don't have them on you, they're useless, so don't forget them! I always have mine in my purse.

-Check the expiry dates! An expired coupon is useless so make sure you keep track of that. Some people like to highlight the expiry date so it's easily noticeable.

-Read the coupons carefully: most of the time, a coupon is good for a certain brand and a certain size of that product. Also, but not as often, a coupon is only good in certain stores, so make sure you read carefully! Read the small print.

-Some stores allow double coupons, which means you can use two coupons on one product, double the savings.

-You can usually use a manufacturer's coupons AS WELL as a store coupon on one product.

-If you have a coupon for a certain brand, but another brand would be cheaper to buy even without a coupon, it is obviously smarter to forgo the coupon and go for the cheaper brand.

Don't be a slave to brands!!!

-Also, if you are using tons of coupons just because you have them and you wouldn't have
purchased those products otherwise, you are not saving money, you are losing money, so be careful.

There's so much more you can learn about using coupons but I'll stick with those few points for now.

The ultimate savings is using a coupon on a sale item - this way, you get the savings from the sale as well as the savings from the coupon. So if possible, try to wait till the item goes on sale before using the coupon.

So before you go grocery shopping, check all the fliers and check your coupons to make the best decisions.

After some practice, you'll be surprised at how often you end up getting money back from the store!


The art of stocking up can end up saving you a ton. The idea is to stock up on items when they are dirt cheap so that you don't have to purchase them again for a long time, or at least until they're dirt cheap again. This way, you'll always be able to buy the item as cheaply as possible because you know you have enough in stock to wait it out for the next big sale.

When you're stocked up, your grocery list gets smaller because you don't need as much. You're saving alot of money in the short and long run.

It's obviously best to stock up when there is a deal so good you can't pass it up. Match the deal with coupons and your savings could be outrageous.

Some good rules here are to make sure you don't over-stock - depending on the item, get enough to last the next 6-12 months. It's a waste of money to have an endless supply of something you don't use and it's an even bigger waste to have certain items go bad before you can use them because you bought too much.

When it comes to pantry items, you can usually stock up quite a bit on most things. But as for meat and other produce, don't bother unless you have a good size freezer or plan to do canning or drying.

Also keep in mind how much storage space you have.

A really well stocked pantry can cut your grocery bill to a small fraction if you do it right.


You've planned your meals and saved alot of money doing so. Take the next step and freeze the leftovers!

Being a single gal, this is easy for me to do as I almost always end up with leftovers. I separate them into portions and freeze them. This gives me at least a few more meals already prepared and cooked.

Say I cook six meals this month and each meal gives me four servings of leftovers in the freezer - that's 24 meals I can eat the next month along with whatever other meals I've planned to make.

That's how I can manage to only have to cook about six times in one month, because if I continue freezing leftovers, I'll always have enough in the freezer for a whole month.

When it comes to families, you can do the exact same thing but you'll have to double or triple the recipe.

In either case, it means big savings and no waste.

If you don't own a large freezer, just try freezing as much as you can. Every bit helps.


Often times it is cheaper overall to make certain items yourself.

Pies, soups, granola, snack bars, popcorn, etc.

It's a little more work but you're going to save money and that is the goal. Not to mention how much healthier it is to make it at home - no preservatives is a good incentive.

Take an item like soup. Let's say it costs $2 for a can that serves two people. Then you calculate the cost of the ingredients you would need to make the soup yourself and it comes out to $5 but the recipe serves eight people. With the can of soup (which is loaded with yucky salt) you're paying $1 per serving, and with the homemade soup (that has fresh healthy ingredients and no chemicals or preservatives) you're paying about .60 cents per serving - that's a savings of 40%.

NOTE: you can often make a good soup using veggies and items that would otherwise end up in the trash or compost - that would be a savings of almost, if not, 100%.

These savings add up so try to think about what you buy and try the DIY method to see how you like it.


Alot of the money we spend on groceries is the cost of packaging. Buying certain items in bulk means you're not spending your hard earned money on plastic and cardboard containers.

The other good thing about buying in bulk is you will often (but not always) pay less than you would have paid to buy the same non-bulk amount of that item.

Just make sure you're actually saving money by checking the price per volume (or kg. oz. etc.) and compare your findings.

Make sure you're going to use the item up before it goes bad and make sure you have the room for it.

Be careful though, because alot of the time it may seem like the better deal but you're actually paying more for the bulk purchase.


The cost of shredded cheese is outrageous! You're paying for a small amount of cheese that someone has shredded for you for a disgusting amount of money. You're paying all that extra to save a lousy few minutes to do the shredding yourself.

These kind of prepared items, like shredded cheese, bagged salads, sliced fruit, snack sized treats, etc. are a killer on your grocery bill.

Stop being lazy and DIY! You'll save so much money you'll wonder why you were tricked into buying these items in the first place.

Buy the big brick of cheese and shred it yourself. Buy the head of lettuce and chop the leaves yourself. Buy the fresh fruit and cut it yourself, buy the big bag of cookies or potato chips and put them into baggies yourself!

It's really not hard and we're really not that lazy.


Some stores have guarantees like Dominons' 'Fresh Or Free' guarantee. This is a guarantee that if you find an item on or past it's expirey date, you get the fresh item for free. Keep your eyes open and find out what kind of guarantees your store has.


Sometimes companies have promotions that allow you to try their product and get your money
back by sending in the receipt and UPC after the purchase.

Keep your eyes open for forms attached to certain products and other advertising for these "try it free" opportunities.


I believe most stores allow you to get a rain-check on a sale item if it's not in stock. This means that you can use your rain-check to get the sale price even after the sale is over.

So if the store is out of the item on sale, don't hesitate to ask for a rain-check!


Take advantage of loyalty programs like the Presidents Choice points program.

Programs like this can end up getting you alot of free groceries! And if you're going to shop there anyway, you might as well get more for your money.


Alot of stores adhere to the Scanner Code Of Practice, or SCOP.

Simply put, this means that if the price of a product that doesn't have a price tag on it scans in higher than the shelf price, you're entitled to that item for free (up to $10).

So keep an eye on prices!


As consumers, we do have power. We are paying for products and the money we spend is money in the company's pocket.

If you feel you've been ripped off, speak up! If a cashier won't help you, go to the manager. If the manager won't help you, go to the next guy up. Eventually someone will hear you.

If you bring home a product that is no good, contact the company and let them know: they usually appreciate it and will often send you a coupon for your next purchase free.

Don't be taken advantage of - you're the one who keeps them in business.


A little calculator in your pocket can make a world of difference in money saving. Use it to compare price per unit calculations on different brands/sizes. Use it to keep an ongoing tally of how much you're going to spend so you don't get an unpleasant surprise at the checkout.


A small but important tip that I've learned - keep your kitchen clean. No one feels like cooking in a messy kitchen and when you don't cook, you usually waste food.


Think of all the things you can do with the eggplant that's on sale for super cheap! And think of all the things you can do with an item before it ends up going bad and in the trash.

These tips and tricks to saving money on groceries are really priceless and really work! But they are only part of what you can do to save, so I encourage you to check out some of the excellent resources on The Thrifty Witch Links Section of this blog and the plethora of other resources available via books and websites.

-Love Marylin.

May 28, 2008

The Human Footprint

A Nick Watts Documentary made in 2007 examining the amount of products consumed in a lifetime and the impact it has on the environment.

May 25, 2008

The Hunt For Meat II

Saturday morning at the market proved to be a little more difficult than I imagined: I mean, how do you politely ask someone if they mis-treat their livestock?

I suppose you don't, and I'm not very good with verbalizing my thoughts, but this is important to me - I'm on a mission!

I was quite pleased to find that the very first person I approached was indeed selling beef that spent most of it's time outdoors, grass and grain fed.

The slightly higher cost for his cuts are very much worth it (for all creatures involved, I'd say).

So Goddess bless the farmers market! It's very much worth checking yours out:

Farmers Markets Ontario
Canada's Guide To Farmers Markets

Next week I'll talk with some of the other meat sellers and see just how many of them are following good practices, but from now on, I know where I'm getting my meat.

-Love Marylin.