The Grocery Game Challenge Nov 4-10, 2013 #1: Holiday baking on a budget

baking-supplies-ingredientsHOLIDAY COOKIE SMELLS FILL THE AIR

The holiday season is fast approaching and whether you buy cookies or enjoy baking cookies some of the best cookie recipes may cost your holiday baking budget some cash if you don’t plan in advance.

With less than 2 months until the festivities there’s no better time to get baking than the present. If you wait until the last-minute you might find you get overwhelmed with having to shop for gifts, plan a dinner, getaway to the relatives, work and friends Christmas parties and then bake on top of it all.

Some of my favourite Christmas cookie recipes that I like to bake and to eat are the butter cookies and the sugar cookies both of which are fairly inexpensive to make with butter being the costly baking ingredient. Making sugar cookies from scratch are probably one of my favourite cookies to make because it reminds me of home. My mum used to make shortbread but the butter, sugar and shortbread cookies all taste the same with a bit of difference in texture.

This past year I posted a few of our favourite holiday treat recipes such as chocolate peanut butter balls, coconut balls and snow balls all of which are my most popular blog post recipes this time of year. I haven’t been making cakes as much this year as I did in 2012 but they can get quite costly as well depending on what type of cake you are making.


Cost of  baking



Around the holidays using alcohol, sugar, butter, nuts, flour and even out of season fruits like figs and apricots can drive the price up of Christmas cakes that you might make for those special holiday gatherings.

The prices of walnut pieces are at $17.99 a pound right now in the bulk store and If I see a sale you can bet I’ll jump in and grab them while I can. Just yesterday we picked up 4 bags of granulated sugar on sale for $1.44 which is the cheapest I’ve seen in ages so I picked up the limit of 4 at No Frills.

I find I use lots of walnuts and pecans for holiday baking and the manufacturers know that bakers around the world commercially and in-house bakers like us will go through lots of nuts so expect the price to stay high for the most part. What we like to do is if I find them cheap throughout the year we buy them and freeze the nuts.

You might remember all the cashew nuts we bought a few weeks back in our grocery game post and it was for the $1.99 price tag that we bought them because we know that nut prices will sky-rocket. If you are peanut fan you can usually find large bags of seasoned or salt and roasted nuts at Shoppers Drug Mart on sale for $2.50 a bag which is a great price in my opinion.

I have a friend whose mother makes a chex mix and bags it up every year for their friends and family in clear bags and wraps with a bow. They give these away as gifts with a bottle of wine as a gift rather than buying gifts and it may seem simple and it is but it is very costly. Nuts and some chips like Fritos are not cheap but certainly make this treat one that we all look forward to every year as a tradition.


Shop early


What we do is start looking for Christmas baking ingredients earlier in the year or even a few months before the holidays. Butter has been on sale the past few months for around $2.88 a pound so we loaded up on a few pounds here and there and store it in the freezer.

Butter will keep in the freezer for a few months but be cautious about how long it stays in there. We store it in a freezer bag and track dates on our freezer inventory list that is in our file folder. You can download a free copy from the blog if you want to track what is inside your freezer.

Some people stick to the very simple and make easy peanut butter cookies to munch on for the holidays and you can easily chocolate them up by adding some of your favourite chocolate chips or chunks. The best chocolate chips to use if you are making simple choc chip cookies (that’s how the wife says it but I say choccie) are a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate for me personally but it differs depending on your sweet-tooth preference.

The price of chocolate chips can get very costly although if you watch you might find the bulk bag 1kg of Hershey’s Chipits on sale for $6.99 or even $7.99 which is a decent price. If you are a Costco member you might find the cost of baking ingredients to be cheaper in bulk packaging as long as you will use the product which most people do who like to bake over the holidays. We’ve always found the best baking ingredients to be found at the bulk barn but not necessarily the cheapest in price.

If there is an odd ingredient or you need fancy baking supplies especially if you want to make decorated holiday cookies usually the bulk barn will carry it unless you know of a baking supply store in your area or even try Micheal’s stores.

Do you make any Christmas cookie recipes or other holiday treats?

How far in advance do you plan to shop and bake?

How do you factor in holiday baking costs into your budget?


Grocery saving tips


Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.

I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the saving process in your grocery budget today.

Get organized with a freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.

NEW!! You can now download the Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…… Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget.. check it out!


November Grocery Game Challenge Posts


Since this is the first installment of the November grocery game challenge I will announce the October winner here. The winner of the grocery game for October goes to….. drumroll please…… #14 MARY C. I really hope we can get more fans on board with the grocery game challenge this month so please help me spread the word.

Mary if you can contact me I will get your coupon envelope sorted out and sent off to you in the mail as soon as possible. You all make me proud. Thank you for participating with me every single month. We must have a GGC end of year online party :-) I’ll bake the brownies mmmm.


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Missed past Grocery Game posts? Catch up on all the latest grocery saving posts below!


Food food and more food



Food Basics

  • Sweet Potatoes $7.23 Sale $0.88lb
  • Pumpernickel Bread Sale $2.00
  • Bananas $1.18
  • 3 Mangoes $2.64
  • 2 x broccoli $0.88 each
  • 2x White Mushrooms Sale $0.88 227g
  • Reduced cucumbers x 3 $1.69
  • 2 x Egg Creations reduced $1.50-$1.00 coupons
  • 1KG Bucket Krinos Feta $13.99

Total out of pocket $33.25

Bulk Barn

  • 2x Organic Apple Cider $1.00 each reduced

Total out of pocket $2.00

No Frills

  • 4x Redpath Sugar  sale $1.44 each
  • 3x Catch of the day Basa Fillets Sale $8.88 each
  • Avocados Sale $1.88 5ct
  • Baby bok choy $3.36
  • Bosc Pears $1.31
  • 5lb Clementines $3.88
  • 6lbs Macintosh apples Sale $2.97

Total Out of Pocket $45.80

Yearly grocery budget for two: $2819.38


  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00 or $78.33 week with one no-shop week per month or $58.75 for 4 weeks per month. (During the months with 5 weeks we just make it work)
  • Total Budget For November $235.00
  • Total Coupons Used this Week : $2.00
  • Total Discounts this Week: $0
  • Total Gift Cards Given Used this Week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points Used: $0
  • Stockpile Budget: $0 Used $0
  • Total Spent This Week: $81.05
  • Total Spent So Far for November $81.05
  • Total Over/Under spend this shop: $0
  • Total Over/Under spend for the month of (November): $0
  • Total Left to Spend for the Month: $153.95
  • Total Coupons Used This Month: $2.00
  • Total to Carry Over Next Month: $0
  • Total Spent To Date This Year: $206.95 (Jan)+ $160.77 (Feb) + (March)$169.62 + (April)$397.74+(May) $155.68 + (June) $216.01+ (July) $235.83 + (August) $182.35 + (September) $255.69 + (October) $196.64=  $2177.28 (does not include stockpile budget)
  • Rendezvous Account: $65.38+$17.24 =$82.62<> This is money saved if there is any leftover at the end of a month of grocery shopping for a date night for the wife and I.
  • Weekly Overview: This was a big shop for us and we wanted to load up on the fish since it was on sale and we love Basa fillets. We find that the cost of meat is getting so high now and if we can eat fish for less than we will opt for that choice instead along with sausages. We aren’t big red meat eaters so we don’t miss too much but it’s a pity the cost of chicken is so high at the moment.


Canadian Coupons Found




Frequently Asked Questions



Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.


  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?


No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.


  • When does the Grocery Game close each month?


The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month. You can post your shops all month-long.


  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?


Yes our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.



Here are your latest Coupon Match-ups of the week including Checkout 51 from 25 Newspaper Inserts around Canada compliments of Save Big Live Better that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge.


  • What is an FPC?


An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.



You can find all your store coupon policies here. If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.



I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices. Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.

You may also substitute items in order to stick to your budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this t of our budget like many people do and this is why the grocery game challenge was created.

If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.

You’ve made a wise decision.

Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge Canada!




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A parking lot scam for money gone wrong


There’s A Scam For Everything

I know what you are thinking and yes there are such things as a parking lot scam and schemes thought up from the best and worst scam artists around. When we go shopping around here it’s normal to see someone sitting on the ground playing the guitar or some other instrument hoping to make a few bucks.

In the past I’ve heard that’s just another way to earn extra money although some may think it’s a scam, especially if they have a sign that says they need money, but do they really? Who knows, if they aren’t approaching me I leave them to it and if I like the music I toss in a buck or two at least for the few moments of entertainment. It ends up being more of a judgement call at the end of the day, at least for me. I give someone credit for getting out there to share a skill with the world.

What are the latest scams?

I don’t know much about parking lot scams but I know that there is a scam for everything out there and we have to protect ourselves. The scams to avoid are the one’s that make you go hmm and scratch your head. If you aren’t feeling good about something ask for more information. One simple fact to remember is “If it’s too good to be true it usually is”. Just last week I read an article online about a job scam that has been going on for ages which is back up and running again in another city.

It had to do with going undercover as a secret shopper and a cheque gets sent to you and you have to cash it and instantly send the rest back before the cheque has cleared. I have to shake my head to wonder who would fall for this, but these people are slick. They know what they are doing and sometimes even the smartest person can get fooled. They prey on certain people and can tell what you are like just by having a conversation with you and they feed off it.

Types of Scams and Fraud

  • Identity theft
  • Payment card fraud – debit card, credit card
  • Mass marketing (you know those emails you get saying that you won 10 million dollars or that your lost relative left you 3 million dollars in an overseas account)
  • Telemarketing fraud – phone calls
  • Email fraud other On-line fraud

The list goes on and on and someone will always think up a creative way to get hold of your hard-earned money, so protect it. If you think you are being taken for a ride, call the police and see what they have to say. A criminal is a criminal. If you want to learn more about the different types of scams above and more you can check out the Royal Canadian Mounted Police site as they share plenty of information to keep you informed on scams and fraud.

The situation

It was a normal grocery shopping day for us, the sun was shining and we were engaged in a conversation about how much money we had just saved in the grocery store. I don’t know what it is but from the time we leave the grocery store right up until we get to our parking space that’s when we talk about our purchase and read receipts to make sure the prices are correct.

There have been a number of times when we have found a scanning error which resulted in using the scanning code of practice on the receipt. Sometimes we think we are swift when it comes to keeping tabs on the cash register but all it takes is to lose focus and you can miss a scan, thus a potential error.

While we were chatting I was loading our groceries into our vehicle. We had refrigerated items that we needed to get home fast because it was the hottest day of the year even though we had our insulated bag. 

As I finished loading the last box of groceries Mrs. CBB hopped in the vehicle and was waiting when this guy approached me. Here I thought my parking space was far enough away that we didn’t have to worry about dealing with people. Sometimes people park so close to my vehicle or do what I call “park stupid” because they just can’t get it right so I always park as far away as possible.

The guy was tall, mid 30′s, with long blond straggly hair wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and blue jeans. He certainly wasn’t a parking lot attendant, but who was he? His approach was abrupt as I wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me at my vehicle, who does? The most I ever say is, “oh here I’ll give you my quarter for your shopping trolley so you don’t have to wheel it back”. 

Now, I’m not an expert on scam artists but what I do know is this guy was dodgy from the moment he said “Can you….”. There was something off about him. Now, I don’t judge anyone as that’s not the type of person I am. If he needed help with his car (besides opening it up) I would have gladly helped him as I was fully equipped to do so. The problem, there was no car as we later learned.

My wife had the look of concern on her face and hid her purse under the seat, but even if he were to draw a gun or weapon of sorts I’m sure she would have just given it to him. I’m not a small guy by any means but I’m not Superman, a knife is a knife, a gun is a gun and both can kill. Warning, don’t pull a Crocodile Dundee.

She had her cell phone in plain view as well to make it seem that if she needed she could call 911 or the police for help. I know it sounds extreme but you have to be weary of strangers as an adult as well as a child.

We hear of auto scams where people take your attention away from what you are supposed to be doing then jump in your vehicle which you have the keys and purse/wallet in. In this case the vehicle had my wife in it.

What did he say? I know you are all dying to know by now. Probably on the edge of your seat biting your nails, with one hand in a bag of buttery popcorn, haha. I promise, I was open-minded and tried not to laugh.

Parking lot scammer: Dude, I locked my keys and wallet in my car across the road at Bulk Ban and I need $3.00 to take the bus home to get my spare keys.

Now, Bulk Barn is far across the road so who in their right mind would want to go there on the hottest day of the year to help him? (his way of thinking) They would likely give him the $3.00 or tell him to piss off. Nice target day to scam people though, brilliant.

Me: Really, that sucks!

Parking lot scammer: Ya, I really need some cash to get home so do you have $3.00 I can have?

Me: You know you can just run over to the oil and lube place and they likely have a Slim Jim kit in there or if you’d like I can call the police because they always carry one in their trunk. I can also meet you over there and see if I can help you out in any way if you like?

He is now visibly shaken as he kept digging a hole the more he talked.

Parking lot scammer: Oh, I didn’t know that (BS you didn’t)

Me: So how do you plan to get back if your wallet and keys are locked in your car and you have no money? How will get into your house with no keys?

Mrs. CBB- Hangs out the window…. I can call the police for you from my cell if you like? (waving it in the air from side to side but in a kind way with a smile)

Parking lot scammer: No no it’s OK, thanks anyways and was across the parking lot faster than a ferret up a trouser leg.

He gave a whole new meaning to “parking lot job” that day and as we drove off we watched him approach another guy putting his groceries away across the parking lot. My wife made a quick phone call to the mall security to let them know what was going on. As security came out he made a mad dash to a tree at the end of the parking lot, unlocked his pedal bike and away he went.

There could have been a million reasons why he needed the money. He needed medication, travel funds, clothing, food for himself or his family, alcohol, drugs, smokes, to pay bills, gas for a car…etc. The problem was he said it was for the bus with a story that didn’t add up.

So, in the end no one got hurt but the guy was already talking to another potential victim while we were making the call. He wasn’t going to stop there but I’m sure if people fell for his trap all those $3.00 donations would add up to a nice chunk of change at the end of his “work day”.

Sad part is, it likely won’t be the last time he is out looking for money while trying to scam someone. It’s also another sign of just how bad some people have it and they will do anything to make ends meet. Scams happen all over the world, don’t ever let your guard down.

When a stranger approaches you how do you handle that situation especially if they ask you for money?

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The Grocery Game Challenge Nov 5-11, 2012- Holiday Baking Planning

Holiday Baking Cupcakes

Holiday Baking can see the Grocery Budget sky-rocket as prices for baking ingredients typically rise up for the Holiday Season. This potentially just adds more pressure to the grocery budget and why planning is important. Last weeks Grocery Game Challenge I brought up the topic of  Holiday Baking and how it could be a budget buster. We don’t bake as much as we used to as we found we had more hanging around than we were giving away each year. I don’t remember making any traditional British holiday recipes myself when I lived in the UK  I do remember each year my mum would make a lovely British Christmas Cake, comparable to a fruit cake. Mrs. CBB fell in love with this cake (probably because of all the nuts and alcohol in the cake). Now we have narrowed it down to a few Christmas Balls that we enjoy making and packaging for friends and bringing to gatherings.

What we like to do is shop ahead of the festivities so we are ahead of the game especially when work parties start in November for some folks. This year we took advantage of Bakers Chocolate Squares found at the Dollar store for only $2.00 which normally cost $3.99 at the grocery store. Best of it is, they are the same product. Another ingredient that shocks Mrs.CBB is the price of nuts. Nut prices jump in price from Oct- Jan and we almost question whether baking certain holiday recipes for Christmas is worth it. We sit down each year and make a list of Christmas recipes we will make and plan all the ingredients we will need. There’s nothing worse than having to run out in the middle of winter to get an ingredient.

Yesterday at Freshco they had 300 g bags of Walnut pieces on sale for $3.77 which was a great deal considering last year we paid around $12.99 a pound for these nuts. We picked up 3 bags or 900 grams worth for baking as it is a main ingredient in most of our easy Christmas Balls recipes.  Sometimes we venture off and make special holiday cookie recipes we find on-line or in a magazine where you can get great recipe ideas. You do the math and you can see how much cheaper it was to stock up now on walnuts instead of waiting until the prices hit the roof.  We also shop for butter a few months in advance and freeze it for baking Holiday recipes or Festive Christmas Cakes.

  • When do you shop for your Holiday Baking Ingredients?
  • What are some of the best holiday cookie recipes you have tried?
  • Do you have any traditional Christmas recipes for cookies?
  • Do you budget money for Holiday Baking?

So although we won’t start the Holiday baking bonanza just yet planning for festive baking is important especially if you don’t have separate budget for these expenses.

The Grocery Game Challenge Canada MVP

Lastly, I want to send out some CBB Love for those fans that have committed to playing The Grocery Game Challenge each week with me. What I have seen over the course of the year from all of you is that you share an inherent passion for sticking to your grocery budget. I have seen many of you make impressive improvements and I commend you. I hope that next year we can grow even bigger and encourage others not only from Canada but from around the world to post their grocery shop. So please join in and post your shop. If you have any questions, ask I’m always around. -Mr.CBB If  I missed you I apologize, just let me know and I’ll add you in!

Grocery Game Challenge Results

Total Grocery Budget for the Month for 2 Adults:$190.00 at $63.33 for 3 weeks of shopping with 1 No-Shop Week per month.

Some Store Acronyms I might  use:
  • No Frills= NF
  • Wal-mart=WM
  • Food Basics= FB
  • Shoppers Drug Mart= SDM

Food Basics

  • 1 x bag of mung beans Sale $2.49
  • Fresh Ginger $0.62
  • Purex Laundry Soap $2.97-$1.00
  • Dempsters Farmhouse Bread $2.99-FPC
  • 2 x Hellman’s Mayo- Sale $2.97-1.00
  • 4 x pomegranates reduced rack $1.99
  • 2 x bread sale $1.59

Total Out Of Pocket: $14.49

No Frills

  • 8 x cheese bars (found more coupons at FB) Sale $2.47- $0.75
  • 4 x Hellman’s Mayo Sale $2.97-$1.00

Total Out of Pocket-$21.64


  • 4 x Ital Pasta Sale $0.77
  • 3 x California Walnuts 300 g $3.77
  • 5 x Limes Sale $0.20
  • Dates Sale $0.99
  • 6 x Nescafe Instant Coffee Sale $3.77

Total Out of Pocket- $39.00

Weekly Grocery Game Challenge Results for Mr. and Mrs. CBB

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Week: $63.33
  • Total Coupons Used this Week:$5.99+$10.00=$15.99
  • Total Scanning Code of Practice: $0
  • Total Spent This Week:$75.13
  • Total Spent So Far for November: $99.21+75.13=$174.34
  • Total Over/Under spend this shop: $11.80
  • Total Over/Under spend for the month of November: $15.66
  • Total Left to Spend for the Month: $15.66
  • Total Coupons Used This Month : $45.33 + $10.00 Spending Card+$15.99=$71.32

Overall: Well we have one shop left for the month and one no-shop week left for the month. We stocked up on cheese, mayo and coffee this week which will do us into Jan 2013 and then some. It should be interesting to see where we will spend our $15.66. Stay tuned!

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?

No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have a few posters from around the world.

  • When does the Grocery Game Close each month?

The Grocery Game Challenge Closes at Midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month. You can post your shops all month-long so if you miss a week you can go back and post so you still get your entry in the monthly contest.

  • Does Your Grocery Budget Include Health and Beauty and Laundry?

Yes our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be effected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money. We are currently well stocked with those products since we used coupons heavily the past couple of years. We haven’t really stocked up on much but we have taken every opportunity to purchase more paper towel, toilet paper, fabric softener and a host of other items that are an excellent price with coupon.

There are many places you can find Canadian Coupons whether it be in store or via the mail. I would suggest following an on-line coupon community or coupon Facebook page in your area.

Canadian Coupon Match-Ups- Match your coupons with flyer sales!

Here are your Coupon Match-ups for Nov 9-Nov 15, 2012 the week  from around Canada compliments of Save Big Live Better. Just one of my favourite Couponing sites for finding the hottest grocery deals in Canada!

Here are a few coupons we picked up while shopping this week.

Canadian Coupons November 2012

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Grocery Game Challenge Rules

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Santa Cupcakes  Credit -Pinterest