Life is always a balance between time and money.
When we feel pressed for time, it’s easy to spend more money than we realize on fast food and convenience products.
This can be true especially when there’s a whole industry based on making us believe that these foods will transform our lives
There are instances when convenience is worth the price in terms of time and money.
Most often we are paying more for less in terms of taste, nutrition and the time savings are not always as great as they appear to be.
It can make sense to buy prepared convenience foods
Frozen rising crust pizzas are a good example. These regularly go on sale for $3.99 and with the price of cheese and toppings it can be hard to beat that cost with homemade pizza.
On a busy night, frozen store-bought pizza can be a definite money and time-saver. It takes just as long to bake one in the oven as it would to wait for take-out. We can make our fast-food and eat it, too.
Pre-washed boxes of salad greens ($4.99 and Walmart and Superstore, $2.99 at Costco) are another convenience item that may be worth paying for. They might be slightly more expensive than the equivalent quantity of bulk produce (especially in the summer) but the ease with which you can toss together a salad after a busy day balances that extra cost.
Sometimes saving time just isn’t worth the cost
Some convenience items are so vastly over-priced that it never makes sense to pay for them. Pre-cut vegetables are a good example.
These are often 3 – 5 times the price (or even more!) of the same product bought whole. Not only do pre-cut vegetables cost more, they also lose their nutritional value more quickly and may have additives to prolong shelf- life.
Cutting your own carrots, potatoes and broccoli is well-worth the minimal amount of extra time in terms of the money you get to keep in your pocket.
If you really want the convenience of pre-cut veggies, your best bet for the budget and nutritional quality is in the frozen food aisle. These vegetables are flash frozen soon after picking, so they maintain much more of their original vitamin content and can match fresh produce in terms of cost for much of the year.
Grated cheese is another item you may be paying an unnecessary premium for. It makes much more sense to purchase a block of cheese on sale and grate it yourself. Toss the grated cheese with a tablespoon of cornstarch and keep in the freezer. The cornstarch will keep the cheese from getting clumpy, and it’s ready to use when you need it.
9 ways to DIY fast food
There are lots of ways you can start saving money and reducing your reliance on fast food and store-bought convenience foods, but before looking at any suggestions it’s important to realize the most important one: planning ahead.
Take some time at the start of the week when you have a clear head and a few minutes to think ahead. Think about what you will prepare for meals that week. Half the battle is avoiding that after school or after work panic of ‘What will I cook tonight?’ or the early morning scramble of getting food and people ready for the day.
Your menu doesn’t have to be rigid, but having the items you need on hand for at-home meals will reduce the chances of finding yourself (again) waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant, or in the rush-hour checkout line spending a good chunk of your weekly food budget on fast food or over-priced convenience foods.
Here are 9 tips and suggestions to help you stock your cupboards, fridge and freezer with cheaper and healthier alternatives (that can also save you time).
How to prepare quick and easy chicken main dishes ahead of time
- ‘Dump Chicken’: take chicken thighs or other pieces, and place a meal-sized portion in each of 4 freezer bags. Toss the following into the bags:
- Bag 1: ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon each oregano and basil
- Bag 2: 2 tablespoons soy sauce, ¼ cup orange juice concentrate, 1 teaspoon dried ginger, ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh, minced), ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- Bag 3: 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Bag 4: ½ cup salsa, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ cup frozen or canned corn, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Zip the freezer bags shut, or close securely and shake the bags until the ingredients are mixed. Store in freezer. You’ve got four quick and easy main dishes prepared in less than 15 minutes.
Take the chicken out the night before you need it and thaw in fridge. Dump the thawed contents into a baking dish and cook in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Serve with rice or noodles and salad.
- Homemade Mac and Cheese Ham Bake: How to make Homemade Mac and Cheese– This version of Mac and Cheese is super fast and simple – no need for the over-priced boxed version. The hardest part is cooking the noodles. You can prepare this the night before and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. You can switch it up by adding a cup of salsa or ham like in this recipe.
- Biscuit Mix: How to make Biscuit Mix– These are great for breakfast or to accompany an evening meal. You can also use it in recipes that call for store-bought biscuit mix.
- Refrigerator Bran Muffins : A batch of this muffin batter only takes a few minutes to mix up, then can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 weeks for quick breakfasts and snacks.
- Instant oatmeal: How to make instant oatmeal– Toss 4 cups oatmeal, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ cup brown sugar and 1 cup powdered milk (optional) into bowl of food processor. Pulse for 1-2 minutes until oats are broken up a bit and ingredients are mixed. Add raisins or other dried fruit and store in an airtight container. For each serving, place ½ cup of the instant oatmeal in bowl. Cover with 2/3 cup boiling water. Let sit 2-3 minutes and serve.
- Brownie Mix: How to make Brownie Mix– Having a few batches of this on hand makes it easy to put together a quick treat or dessert at a moment’s notice. It’s perfect for when you need to bring something to work or school and cheaper than stopping off at Tim’s or the supermarket.
- Condensed Milk: How to make condensed milk– Condensed milk is used in many quick and easy dessert recipes, but it can be very pricey. It’s easy to make your own at home for a fraction of the cost.
Sides and seasonings
- Salad Dressing: How to make salad dressing- A simple vinaigrette is cheaper than store-bought, without all the additives. It is infinitely variable, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
- Taco Seasoning: How to make Taco Seasoning– Lots of fast and easy recipes call for taco seasoning. Don’t bother buying it when you can make your own in seconds for a fraction of the cost.
One step at a time
Don’t try to make too many changes at once. If you find you are relying heavily on fast foods and convenience foods, set a goal of reducing one or two meals out a week and eliminating one prepackaged food to start.
Once you see how easy it can be to DIY, eating more healthily and cheaply, you’ll wonder why you’ve spent time waiting in line for food that isn’t really all that fast or convenient after all.
Here are a couple more good reads to get you started making your own fast food at home.
- Hillbilly Housewife- Homemade Convenience Foods
- Make The Best of Everything: DIY Freezer Convenience Foods
What convenience foods have you made at home instead of buying at the grocery store?
Post Contribution: Mary Gillespie lives in New Brunswick and shares recipes and tips on her
blog ‘Ketchup With That‘.
August Grocery Game Challenge posts
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you.
Join in the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post… here are the GGC rules!
- How to Avoid Paying Full Retail Price At The Grocery Store- Grocery Game #1 August, 2015
- 10 Food Products Worth Buying to Save Time In The Kitchen- Grocery Game #2 August , 2015
- 11 Ways to Feed Your Family When You Have Little To No Money-Grocery Game #3 August, 2015
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 savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
Yearly grocery budget for two 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $235 per year or $25 per month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $229.08
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $32.40
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $20.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 124736
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to date: $15.00
- Zweet to date: $14.50
- Cart Smart to date: $0
- Checkout51 to date: $6.00
Grocery Shop This Week
(add any other sections you need to show expenses and savings)
Shoppers Drug Mart
- 1x Neilson Homo Milk 4L $4.97
Total Out-of-Pocket $4.97
- Total to spend this month $235-$5.92 (over July) $229.08
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94+$25.00 (April)+$25.00+ May $25.00+ June $25.00+July $14.44+Aug $
- Stockpile budget used this month: $25.00
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $30.50
- Total in-store discounts this week: $0
- Total in-store discounts to date: $564.59
- Total spent this week: $5.97
- Total spent so far this month: $50.82
- Total over/Under spend this shop: $under
- Total over/Under spend for the month: $under
- Total left to spend for the month: $203.21
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $258.44+May $218.12+ June $235.67+July $212.16+August $0
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
This was no-shop week which means we didn’t go into any grocery stores.
Canadian Coupons Found This Week
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons!
I found a few coupons last week but nothing new for this week so I’ll share the same coupons again for those that missed them last week.
We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
I didn’t find any coupons this week as it was a no-shop week.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: 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 but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. 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.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading out but mobile coupon apps are the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households have gotten involved with their new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many apps that are already out there.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: 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 grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 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.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general.
If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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