Chunky chocolate chip walnut cookies

Chunky-chocolate-chip-walnut-cookies-Mr-CBB-2

Homemade Cookies Baked With Love

You can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and a hot cup of tea. I’m a big fan of cookies so I tend to make them often over cakes since I’m the only one who eats them. That and cookies are dead easy to make and don’t cost as much as buying them from the bakery. You can’t compare homemade cookies to bagged cookies either.

Growing up my mum made cookies (biscuits) often because she didn’t fancy buying them from the grocery store. My mum used to make cookie baskets for her friends when she went to visit for tea and that was her way of saying thanks for having her and dad over for a cuppa.

Saying that I can tuck into a pack of McVities Milk Chocolate Hobnobs any day of the week… (sorry mum) but to buy them in Canada costs a mere fortune so I’ll have to wait until we go back to the UK so I can load up on some good eats. I joke with my sister that we are going to hang outin the grocery store just to pick out all the foods I miss and she thinks it’s hilarious. It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone sorta of thing.

Easy to make cookies

So, being the guy who loves to cook once in a while I put on the bakers hat to whip up a special treat for myself. When I make any type of cookies I always tend to fancy the thicker cookie. I don’t know what it is about thin, crispy cookies but they don’t give me as much pleasure as a thick cookie.

When I bite into a homemade cookie I want to sink my teeth into it. I want to taste the chocolate slide through my teeth as I bite down then melt in my mouth. The walnuts in this chocolate chip walnut cookie I will share with you today lend just the right amount of crunch to make these a cookie that you shouldn’t be shy about making any time of year. Perfect any time of day these easy to make cookies won’t last long at all.

Cookie ingredients

One thing I like about making any type of cookie is that it’s not rocket science. Honestly I find cookies simple to make and there really aren’t many ingredients for cookies that are unfamiliar to the average household pantry unless you get into sophisticated gourmet cookie recipes but we won’t do that here. I’m not so much into the cookie decorating like Nicola is as you will see with her Easter Shortbread recipe because cookie decorating is an art and a skill that I just don’t have.

You will notice in today’s recipe the ingredient list is straight forward and will produce a thick, soft chocolate chip walnut cookie provided you don’t overcook the cookie. I always remove my cookies a minute or two early and let them finish baking on the tray. That is my cookie secret to making soft cookies because many people just cook them for far too long and they get hard and crispy which I don’t care for. If you do, then knock yourself out and cook em until you get the crunch you desire.

Some other CBB cookie recipes (check out my full recipe index for all CBB recipes in one easy to read spot)

Chunky-chocolate-chip-walnut-cookies

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Cookie ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts

Preparation

  • In your stand mixer or bowl add in your butter, white and brown sugar, vanilla and eggs and mix until combined.
  • Add in your flour, salt and baking powder then mix
  • Add in your nuts and chocolate chips and mix until combined
  • With a spoon drop a golf ball size amount onto an ungreased baking sheet
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes or just until the top looks brown (do not overcook)
  • Remove from oven, let stand on cookie sheet for a minute or 2 then transfer to a wire rack to cool
  • Yield 2 dozen cookies (depending on how big you make them :)

Enjoy your chunky chocolate chip walnut cookies with a tall glass of cold milk or any hot beverage you enjoy.

What are some of your favourite cookie recipes? 

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Homemade Olive Pita Bread

Homemade Olive Pita Bread

Making homemade olive pita bread is easier than you think and it won’t break the grocery budget. Even if you don’t like olives in your pita bread simply leave them out of the recipe. We’ve been buying pita bread lately to get away from traditional loaves of bread and it’s much more versatile for us as a couple.

Although we normally buy it we wanted to try and make homemade pita bread to see if it was worth all the hoopla in the kitchen. It sure was, absolutely worth every penny and the time and effort to make it. This is now going to be a regular recipe in our home although I may modify the flour for my wife who would want a whole wheat pita.

You can flavour your pita bread with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, chives and parsley. You really can add any spices you like to this pita bread recipe to make it your own custom bread. For this recipe I used a white all-purpose flour although you don’t have to stick with white flour as there are other options.

If you love pita bread and you can’t have white pita you can easily make a whole wheat pita bread recipe although I just substitute the white flour in this recipe for whole wheat and add a bit more liquid. The other option that is becoming more popular is the gluten-free pita bread recipe which is great for those that are on a GF diet and one my wife would enjoy.

Homemade Olive Pita Pocket

I’ll admit that I thought there was no way that this pita bread would have a pita pocket but once  it came out of the oven. I cut the pita bread in half I amazed myself when the pita spit down the centre so easy. I now had a pita bread pocket that I could stuff full of my favourite meats, cheeses and vegetables for an amazing lunch or dinner.

Ways To Use Pita Bread

When guests come over to our house its time to break out some healthy appetizers and using pita bread is a great way to lighten the load when it comes to snacks. We make some of our famous creamy hummus, and make the easiest pita chip recipe ever by cutting the olive pita bread into triangles, bake them in the oven at 350 flipping them until crisp.

Some people like to call these pita bread chips which essentially they are and we sometimes add a bit of spice on top while they are baking for even more flavours. The perfect go-to healthy snack for any back yard bbq party or any time you want a snack for that matter. There are so many pita bread fillings out there but really you can just stuff a pita with whatever you like.

We’ve made  a pita sandwich with tuna salad, egg salad, veggie pita, meat and cheese stuffed pita, the list is endless.

Our Greek friends like to dip pita bread in a tzatziki dip with is a yogurt based dip but it is also a big part of their culture. In the fast food and food truck industry you will find extensive use of pita bread to wrap gyros, falafel, kabob’s and souvlaki which are some  of my favourite take-away fast foods.

Pita Bread Pizza

One other recipe we make with pita bread is pita bread pizza’s which are dead easy to make and you don’t get all the doughy crust like you would with a traditional pizza recipe. I also find that I don’t feel as full as opposed to when I eat a traditional style pizza.

Although this pita bread recipe is a bit of work it is worth the effort because you can’t buy homemade pita bread like this at the supermarket. I have yet to find a pita bread bakery in town so for now that bakery will be in the CBB kitchen.

Where To Buy Pita Bread?

You can now find pita bread all over North American and for most it is a staple in their home and replaces a traditional loaf of bread. We typically can buy Middle Eastern Lebanese pita bread or you may find a Greek Pita bread from Food Basics for around $1.00 for a pack of 6 which is a great price. I find both have different textures where one is chewy and the other is soft like a flat bread.

They are not near as tasty and the pita bread freshness and aroma you get making homemade pita bread which you can’t buy in a bag. I will admit though that $1.00 for a packet of pita for a quick meal or snack is not a bad price but nothing beats homemade not even cheap pita bread at the shops.

The easy part was making the  dough a somewhat round pita bread, the tedious part was cooking the pita one at a time on my hot pizza stone in the oven. I also call it the pita stone. I’m sure there is some fancy pita bread pan on the market but for now I will use our Pampered Chef Pizza Stone which the wife has had for over 10 years.

If anyone is worried about the quality of the Pampered Chef Stoneware all I will say is we have many of the items and they all live up to our expectations. This is also a time when we dream of having an outdoor bread oven that we can simply toss in pizza’s, bread and whatever else all at once and have it cooked in mere minutes.

Is Pita Bread Healthy?

Well my wife is now on a Low GI (Glycemic Index) diet and the dietician who label pita bread as a medium GI food to each which they tell her to choose more often. Judging by the charts and my knowledge 100% whole grains will always be your safest bet with higher fibre and other nutrients than a refined white flour like I used today.

Eating something in moderation is a smarter way to eat unless you have dietary restrictions or are watching exactly what is going into your diet. Although pita bread is low in fat and calories it may be higher in carbs depending on what you choose and what you decide to stuff inside your pita.

Store Bougth Pita Bread

The white pita bread we buy which is a Lebanese Style White Pita Bread called BY BLOS that I eat now that my wife can’t clearly states the nutritional values on the label. It says it’s low in fat and cholesterol free. Serving size is 1 pita and that rings in at 180 calories and 1 gram of fat and 0% saturated or trans fats. The sodium level per pita is 240 mg and it provides 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1g of fibre, 7 grams of protein and 15% iron.

A close relative of ours who has a heart disease and has had a heart attack was told by his doctor and dietician to start including whole grain products in his diet including pita bread to lower his cholesterol and to add fibre to aid with constipation as he has many medications that he takes. It also will help him to keep his weight down since he is a huge bread lover but really should cut back and make a healthier choice for his own health and well-being.

Pita Bread Ingredients

There are not many ingredients in pita bread and for this particular recipe I turned to my handy Australian Woman’s Weekly Bread and Scones cookbook which I adapted this pita bread with olives recipe from. This is one my favourite cookbooks and if you know me I used to collect cookbooks before the internet was around and they helped draw out the creative side of me in the kitchen.

When I was ready to bake the bread I heated the oven to 400 degrees and put my stone in to get very hot before I put each pita in the oven. I watched each pita as it cooked and flipped it when the tops got brown. Don’t over cook the pita as it cooks fairly fast around 5 minutes per side although everyone’s oven temps are different. You cannot leave your oven during the cooking process.

  • 2 teaspoons of dry yeast 7g
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm milk
  • 4 1/4 cups of plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of pitted olives

Rolling the pita bread

Preparation

  • Combine your yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl and whisk it until the yeast is dissolved. Cover with cling wrap or a towel and let stand for about 10-15 minutes or until you see the yeast activated and frothy with bubbles
  • In another bowl combine your yogurt, egg, water and oil
  • Add your flour and salt into a large bowl then add in the yeast mixture and the yogurt mixture and olives then mix until you get a soft textured dough.
  • Turn the dough on to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until soft and elastic
  • Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size
  • Once doubled in size turn onto a floured surface and knead the dough again until it is smoot. Divide your dough into 8 equal parts. Knead each portion into a ball of dough then cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size 25-30 minutes

Shaping The Pita Bread Homemade

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees as you want it very hot and place your pita stone or pizza stone inside to heat up
  • Roll each ball into a round circle about 25 cm round but don’t worry if they aren’t perfect, look at mine and they turned out great.

Olive Pita Bread on Pita Stone

  • Place one pita on the stone and put back in the oven for about 5 minutes then flip to brown the other side. Do not walk away from your oven or you risk burning the pita or overcooking them.
  • Enjoy, cover with a tea towel in a baking pan and stuff your pita with whatever you like~

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How Much Should My Grocery Budget Be?

Last week Mr.CBB asked me, “What do you think is a reasonable weekly grocery budget for 1 person in Canada?” The question got me thinking: You can’t define a single weekly grocery budget that will work for everyone because there are too many variables.

Determining Your Grocery Budget

First and foremost, a budget is determined by income. Some people can afford to spend more on food than others. A Budget is also affected by food prices, which can vary depending upon your location. For example, because the weather is inhospitable to farming and the location remote, food will always cost more in the Yukon than it will in Ontario.

Through need or preference, some people will have special dietary needs. If you need to buy special ingredients due to an allergy or illness, or if you choose to eat only organic foods, you can expect to pay a premium for shopping to accommodate those requirements.

How Much Effort Are You Willing To Put In?

Grocery budgets are also affected by how much time and effort a person is willing to invest in food preparation and meal planning. When I’m not earning a pay-check we spend less money on food out of necessity. We achieve that goal because I spend a lot of time preserving, cooking from scratch, and foraging for wild food.

When I am earning a pay-check we tend to spend more on food, both because we can and because I have less time to invest in the labour intensive processes of canning, baking, and cooking.

How Many People Are You Feeding?

The number of people you are cooking for will also significantly affect the amount of your grocery budget. The usual rule of thumb is that the cost per portion for a dish is inversely proportional to the number of servings being prepared.

Regardless of whether you’re cooking a small quantity or a huge batch, you still have to buy all the ingredients required to make a recipe. It’s usually not possible to buy a teaspoon of cinnamon or four tablespoons of butter, so you end up buying a whole container of cinnamon and a whole pound of butter even though it’s more than you actually require for that particular dish.

If you’re preparing a larger batch, you’ll use a larger percentage of those purchased ingredients, but you’ll still have paid the same price to buy them.

How Much Are You Willing To Spend?

There’s also the issue of comfort level. Some people are comfortable with spending a larger amount on groceries than others. I have a friend who regularly spends around $1000.00/month to feed her family of four and she’s fine with that. Another friend with a comparable income is uncomfortable when her grocery budget exceeds $400.00/month.

Although I’m inclined to favour the lesser expenditure, it’s not my place to judge either budget.  Both of my friends have defined what works for them.

How To Estimate Your Grocery Budget

So…With all of those variables how do you estimate how much money you should spend in the grocery budget each week?

  • First you look at what you can afford and you shop within that limit.
  • Next you look at what your shopping has provided you.
  • Lastly, are you getting enough to eat?  Are you eating a healthful diet?
Have I Budgeted Too Much For Food?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ve probably budgeted enough money for food. Now, look at what goes into your garbage can and recycling bin.  Is there a lot of waste in your kitchen? Is your food spoiling before you use it up? Do you find yourself discarding a lot of packaging?

If so, chances are you’re spending too much on food.

So…How, then, do you decide on what is an appropriate amount to budget?

Well, you set a benchmark, try it on for size, and then adjust it after you’ve worked with it for a couple of months.

In most of Canada, a single adult with normal dietary requirements can eat well for about $50.00/week. (This amount is for food only, not household items or personal items.) If you are buying for one person and can afford to spend that much on food, that amount would be a good place to start.

If you’re buying for more than one person, try starting with a monthly grocery budget that is roughly 10% of your month’s take-home pay.

If, over time, you find that you can eat well without spending the full amount you’ve allotted, cut back your grocery budget and put your savings toward something else.

Have I Budgeted Too Little For Food?

If you find that you are stretching to make it to the end of the month while staying within your grocery budget, look first to what you’re buying and how you’re using it. Are there ways you can use your food dollars more efficiently? Address these challenges first.

  • Are youshopping” your fridge and pantry first when planning your meals?
  • Or are you heading straight to the grocery store?

If you can’t make your grocery budget work by adjusting your habits, then adjust your budget upward – a little at a time – until you find the number that works for you. Just remember: The more efficiently you manage your grocery budget, the more money you’ll have to direct towards the other goals in your life.

Contribution Post By:  Aunt B’s family jokes that she started writing because she just doesn’t know when to be quiet!  In truth, her blogs grew out of a long illness and helped her to keep in touch with the world around her.  She’s interested in everything, and shares her interests at Aunt B on a BudgetA Word from Aunt BB on Balance  and B-Attitude.

Editors Note:

If you want to start saving money with your grocery budget join us here weekly to post your grocery shop in The Grocery Game Challenge. You will learn all you need to know about grocery shopping and how to save using coupons, flyer sales, meal planning and more.

My family budget is $235.00 a month for 2 people and a $20 stockpile budget which includes health and beauty, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Follow our journey every Tuesday when I post our grocery shop, grocery budget numbers, coupons used, coupons found and much more in The Grocery Game Challenge.

Many Canadian Budget Binder Fans have lowered their grocery budget simply by posting their shops and being mindful of what is going into their shopping cart. No matter if you have a Grocery Budget for 1, Grocery Budget for 2, Grocery Budget for a family of 3, Grocery Budget for a family of 4 or more you need a budget in order to save money.

Read how one fan went from spending $1100 a month on Groceries to just $600 a month by reducing their budget and making changes to the way they think about spending money.

 A few of our most popular Grocery Game Challenge Posts:

You can see our grocery budget example for 2 people and also see examples of family grocery budgets from our fans who post their shops in the comment section of the post.

Also check out my Free Money Saving downloadable Tools Page where you can get all sort of lists that you can print such as a pantry list, freezer inventory list, furnace filter change chart, over-time tracking chart, Net Worth Calculator, Shopping List, Garage Sale Route List and so much more and it’s all FREE!!!

One last thing to help you with your grocery budget is knowing about The Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) educate yourself and learn how you can save money at the cash!!

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Do you have a Question to Ask Mr.CBB please click HERE to ask him!

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The Frugal Basics-Convenience Costs!

The Frugal Basics  – Convenience Costs!
Guest Post By Sally Pyle (aka Frugal Sally)
Photo Credit
I’ve been taught many lessons on how to be a  frugal girl, but one of the biggest lessons that I learned on my own was that convenience costs.  It costs big time and living frugally has improved my belief in keeping it simple.  Anytime you make it easier and quicker, it also makes it more expensive. Have you seen the price of food?
Manufacturers are cashing in on our laziness and that we have next to little time these days. I’m  often asked “How do you save money” and my mind races with ideas to share.
I’ve figured out for myself that if I spend a little time each day I have off work I can do things that save me a good bit of money.  Not a little, but over time a lot.  It also saves me time in the long run because if I think far enough ahead, I don’t have to make these things again for a while.
This is what I learned about convenience 
Photo Credit
Making My Own Cleaners
By the time you clip your coupons, look for sales, run to the store (or several stores) and then get home unpack and eventually use your product, I have already made up several bottles of all-purpose cleaner for about $.02 a bottle.  Maybe it took me less than 3 minutes to make it….how convenient was yours?
Here is one recipe that is for an All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach

  • 1 Empty and Rinsed-Out Empty Plastic Spray Bottle
  • 1/4 Cup Bleach
  • 1 Teaspoon Laundry Detergent (use homemade)
  • Fill the rest of the bottle with Water and Shake
I also make my own laundry detergent which takes me less than 1 hour and it makes 5 gallons of detergent.  This 5 gallons of home-made detergent lasts me for months.
  • How long did it take you to go through that $5.00 bottle of 32 uses
Mine cost about $.04 per load….your’s was about $.16 per load.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
Ingredients
  • – Water
  • – 1 Bar Fels Naptha Soap, Grated
  • – 5 Gallon Bucket
  • – 1 Cup Washing Soda
  • – 4 1/2 Gallons Water
Procedure
  • Place grated soap in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved.
  • Fill bucket with hot water, and add soap.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Add 1 cup washing soda and mix well. As it cools it will thicken. May be used immediately.
  • Use 1-2 cups per load.
You can find this type of recipe on many sites on-line.
Saving In The Kichen
Another place I save is in the kitchen.  Sure it is convenient to pull a store-bought frozen meal from the freezer.  Whip open the hamburg helper meal mix in a box.  Call the pizza delivery for dinner.  What I have learned is that by cooking ahead I can have my meals ready in the freezer for when I’m too tired to cook.  I can make up my own burger helper mixes, taco mixes at a fraction of the price.  I can cook double and triple batches to split into several meals for later days.  It really is all about thinking ahead with a little frugal meal planning.
  • How much time do you think you spend cooking dinner every night?
  •  How much money do you spend when you call for that pizza or go out to eat because there is nothing to make at home?
 It adds up, believe me!
Pizza aux moules

Pizza aux moules (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know you could make your own pizza for about half the cost and it would probably be ready in the same amount of time it takes the delivery driver to get there.  And no tipping!!
When I cook a meal, I make twice as much, split into 2 or 3 meals and freeze them.  Tuh-Duh, I have just made 2 freezer meals for later in the next week or so.  Same amount of time to cook one.  Saved money because cooking in bulk is usually always cheaper, and I save on utilities.  I also saved myself from cooking for another night or two because now it is just “heat and eat”.
This cuts down on waste because you are making the meals the right size for you family and not putting them aside in the fridge hoping someone will eat the leftovers just to throw them away.  It also helps to cut back on having the same thing night after night until it’s gone.
Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also make homemade convenience food meals.  I make them up assembly line style.  Last week I made up 12 packages of Hamburger Helper type meals.  Not only are they cheaper to make, but they are an alternative to the box so a healthy convenience  food.  They contain less sodium and fresher ingredients!!
The pantry served guests and the family.

The pantry served guests and the family. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also make a day out of cooking to make healthy freezer meals.  I plan my menu around sale items, what I have in my pantry and the freezer.  I cook for several hours but I make up to 20 meals on some days, enough freezer meals for a month. Stock my freezer and then when I’m tired or after work, it is pop it in the oven and dinner is done.  Most of my freezer meal recipe portions run about $4.00 each meal and that feeds 2 of us, plus we usually have enough left over for someone to take to lunch.
I skip the services that make it easier and save big. There are a bunch of services that will make your life easier, but I’m just not willing to part with my money when it is something I can do myself.
Photo Credit
I can clean and iron my own shirts.  At the cost of nearly $3.00 per shirt at the laundry I think I will save the $15.00 a week to do it myself.  My husband has to wear dress shirts to work.  Many of the other wives pay to have them cleaned and pressed.  I think I can spare 15 minutes of my time to press 5 shirts and save the $1.00 per minute that it took me to do it.
Sometimes with an investment up front, it pays for itself in the long run.  I have my own carpet cleaner to clean my carpets.  I will not pay someone $100 to clean my carpet when I can do it for about $8.00.  My carpet cleaner paid for itself the first time I used it. I can not tell you how many times I’ve cleaned my carpet saving me thousands (literally) over the years.
I cut my husbands hair as I thought it was a simple way of saving money.  Sure it is more convenient for him to go pay $12.00+ at the barber shop, but I can do it for free.
Photo Credit
It is convenient to run to the store and pay full price for groceries that aren’t on sale or without coupons.  Take the time to at least make a menu from the sales and base your dinners around sale items.  Clip coupons or use printable grocery coupons from on-line sources and use them on top of sale prices.  Stockpile some good pantry items when they are on sale so you have them on hand for cooking.  Check your pantry before buying what you already have on hand.  I save almost half on my grocery bill every week by doing this.  Last week it was a $56.00 savings in my budget.  I think a little inconvenience here paid off.  To me that was like making $56.00 per hour for my time.
Other tips to save money
Photo Credit
My dog is on a special diet because she is older and has problems with digestion.  I could buy her food at nearly $8.00 a can or I could make 16 to 20 servings for about that price.  It takes me an hour or two to make homemade dog food (it is easy, but waiting for it to cool and separating it takes time).  That is a savings to me of about $140.00!!  I think I will be inconvenienced for that savings.
I am also learning how to do my own dog grooming so I won’t have to pay for that either from a professional dog groomer.  I’m afraid to groom her on my own, but it will save me about $45.00 every 8 weeks or so.
So you see by just these few examples that convenience really isn’t all that convenient and it may save you some hassle but it isn’t really saving you time.  It sure isn’t saving you money.  I will do all these things because I know it helps.
Disney pincess

Disney pincess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can tell you that because our being debt free, the cruise to Mexico we took, the trip to Disney with our granddaughter, amongst other things we can now do in life (and pay cash for it) shows it helps.  The money we are saving now from all this effort will also help us in our retirement that we are working for.
You may need to cut corners to make ends meet.  You may want to save on these things for the extras you want in life.  You may want to do this for your future. For the price of convenience you have to ask yourself “is it worth it?”
A Bit About Our Guest Poster
Frugal Sally is from Georgia, United States.  It is my mission to save money and help others do the same.  I started all this with that in mind.  To go beyond things like couponing and shopping sales to digging deeper to save every cent I can. This is for people who think in dollars and “sense”.  My grandmother, who survived the Depression, taught me to ”Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
If you would like to Guest post on Canadian Budget Binder drop me a line and let’s chat!
Come Check out Canadian Budget Binder on Facebook and see what the latest conversations save you in the budget! I am also Tweeting on Twitter.. so tweet along with me HERE.
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Get Smart With Your Smart Meter!

Get Smart With Your Smart Meter!

By: Canadian Budget Binder

Everybody’s got ‘em, some have ‘em working already, others will be starting in May 2012 and most already hate ‘em. You guessed it, I’m talking about the new TOU (Time Of Use) Smart Meters. Although not a new concept in the grand scheme of things, they’re here whether you like it or not.

There are other countries that have had a variety of  ”time of use” schemes for years.  I can remember as a child in  England me mum always had the hot water on a timer coz of “Economy7“.

Having cheaper electricity at certain times of the day has been natural for me, but for the Canadians I know it’s quite the sore point. What’s the problem? Well the Canadian climate for starters isn’t exactly stable, where swings of 70 degrees Celsius between summer and winter exist. Heating and Cooling the house is a major player in the bills department.

What did I do?

For starters I got rid of my old Mercury switch thermostat and replaced it with a 7 day programmable. I can set the thermostat warmer for when the fans kick in on cheap rate, then have it lower during expensive rate. The idea being that the residual heat from cheap rate inside the house gets us through to the next cheap rate time slot. I’m not entirely sure there’s any scientific merit in this strategy, but I’m always open to theories.

During the Weekend and Stat Holidays (Bank Holidays to us Brits) it’s different, it’s cheap all day, so if you leave the clothes washing til either the evening (after 7pm) or the weekend you’ll be on cheap rate.

Timers are another great idea if you want to run electrical equipment, set them up to only come on at cheap rate. Some electrical items may need to be left on all the time so you may have to research what you want on a timer.

In the summer when we need the air conditioning (A/C) on we try to wait it out for the cheap rate to kick in. Using the dehumidifier with the A/C dries out the house faster and aids in making it feel cooler and uses less electricity as you’re running the A/C for shorter periods of time. On cool nights I open all the windows and run a single fan…..one fan can actually get the house down to 16 degrees on a cool night.

Some people have suggested using the ceiling fans in conjunction with both the heating and the A/C……haven’t seen a great deal of difference to be honest. We always have the blinds shut in the summer months to reflect the sun’s energy just so it’s not heating up the house. We keep the blinds open during winter days to let warmth in but closed during the night.

The hot water is gas heated (same price all day) but you might want to think about yours and how you use it if it’s an electric water heater. Lime scale build up on the element won’t do it much good either. We have hot water cylinder jackets in the Uk but haven’t really seen them here. They’re basically a duvet for your tank to keep the water you just paid to heat up warmer for longer.

We have electric washers and dryers, they only do their required job on cheap rate.(yes we have 2 of each, long story) The clothes dryer however is rarely used as 99% of the time the clothes are hung especially in the summer months, coz sunshine and a warm breeze is free. A badly furred up exhaust line will cause your drier to work harder (not to mention it’s a fire hazard) and you’ll get to the point where it’s struggling to dry your clothes.

TIP- Do yourself a favour and clean it out.

I also upgraded the bathroom extractor fans to 150 cfm super quiet (energy star) instead of the builder grade 50 cfm noise polluters and fitted a timer with each. I know I have to run the bathroom fan, but I don’t wanna run back 2 hours later and turn it off coz I forgot about it !!!

All light bulbs in the house are of the Compact Fluorescent type, except those on the exterior of the house, just because they don’t do cold very well. If LED bulbs came down in price we’ll be swapping to those.

Even the TV’s in the house use less electricity, they are either LCD or LED rather than CRT (cathode ray tube) and unplugged from the wall when not in use.

Don’t use anything more than you have to, if it can wait until cheap rate then wait and do something else instead. I even plug the cell phone in on cheap rate and the rechargeable camera battery goes on cheap rate too.

I tape/sealed all ducting with metal tape (not duct tape) including the return air side, this increased the efficiency of the furnace by actually pulling cold air from the entire house (you can actually feel the suction on the return air registers). The 3 months following the tape job I changed the furnace filter 3 times due to the amount of crap it sucked out of the ductwork. It now heats/cools the house faster saving me money coz it’s on less.

Don’t boil more water than you need in the kettle. I even measured out cups/mugs and marked the amounts on the side of the kettle. This way I’m only boiling enough for 1 or 2 cups/mugs at a time instead of boiling twice the amount and leaving the rest to go cold again.

Think about when you’re boiling the kettle, are you up in the morning at 7am? Wouldn’t it be cheaper for you to get up 10 minutes earlier and run the kettle or the coffee maker before 7am, or use a timer or maybe the coffee maker has a built-in timer.

Running the oven on a standard sized range (30″ wide) is expensive especially if your only cooking something small purely because your paying to heat up a larger space than you need to……there’s a small convection toaster oven on the kitchen worktop in our house and is great at cooking small amounts of food. We watch what we cook and when we cook, in-fact, a lot of the time it’s cheaper for us to run the barbeque at 5pm and cook than run the full size stove.

Take advantage of the great Canadian summer and send your man into the garden and cook caveman style and get him saving money in the Budget !!

Old appliances can wallop your electricity bill due to being inefficient, if your unsure how much your appliances are using try using “Kill a Watt” usage meter, there available from most local Libraries (normal cost approx $60). The meter will tell you how much electricity you used with whatever was plugged in to it.

You’ll have to do the conversion to cost yourself, as an example here’s the washing machine on a cold load……..

  • 0.24 kw/h used according to the usage meter

now add-on the adjustment factor (found on your electricity bill) and we get

  • 0.249696 kw/h

now times that by the amount you pay per kw/h

  • 0.249696 kw/h x 6.2 cents = 1.5481152 or 1.55 cents per load

compare that to expensive rate

  • 0.249696 kw/h x 10.8 cents = 2.6967168 or 2.7 cents per load

That doesn’t sound a lot but it all adds up, remember 1.55 cents is based on 1 wash on cold and we have a gas-fired water heater running on cheap rate. If you want a warm wash at 5pm (expensive rate) and you have an electric-powered water heater you’ll be paying at least $0.54 cents (that’s almost 35 times the cost). Note that the water usage/cost hasn’t been added in which is another world of ludicrously expensive bills.

Environmentally unsound as it may seem I have a Petrol (Gas) driven lawn mower that doesn’t really use much fuel, probably fill the little tank 3-4 times over the growing season (small lawn). Imagine what it would cost me if I had an electric mower?

The days of endless cheap energy in North America are gone. The long and short of it……it’s gonna cost ya, just depends on whether you want to adapt to the way we use Smart Meters or not.

What do you do to save money with the Smart Meter?

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