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Showing posts from January, 2019

Little Life Hack - Optimizing Health Spending vs. Wellness Accounts

If your employer offers a health spending and wellness accounts, it's very tempting to make sure you have some money in the wellness account side so you can cash that money out for various sporting activities or other equipment that we love, however there is a better way to take advantage of that money.

Any money that you put into the Wellness account is taxed at your marginal tax rate. So if you get $500 a year, you are going to pay at least $100 in taxes (likely more!). If you put it in your Health Spending Account (HSA) all that money remains tax free so you have access to the full $500. However there are more restrictions on what you can use that money on; it has to be medically related and on your insurance's approved list. One tip that I recently learned is that you can submit your payments for the insurance plan as Health Spending Account expenses, which allows you to get back all of that money tax free (unless of course you are one of the lucky ones that your employer …

It's the Little Things: Cutting the Grocery Bill by Cooking from Scratch

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I've always enjoyed cooking and have looked for ways to cut costs on our grocery bills. As time has gone on I've gone to greater extreems to save a few dollars, but it all adds up and doesn't really take that much extra time. Just planning.

Baking Bread: Probably the most labour intensive, but gets a pretty good return and I quite like the taste. See my post for more details. Saves about $6/week

Making Yogurt: I've been making homemade yogurt in my instant pot for about 2 years now. Saves about half the price of the cheapest yogurt I can find. I've been using "This Old Gal's" recipe. Costs about $5 (cost of 4 L of milk here) to make 4 Kg of yogurt (costing about $16 for plain store bought), or 3 kg of Greek yogurt ($11-12 at Costco). This saves roughly $8 per the two week period that the yogurt lasts us.

Dried Beans instead of Canned: Since getting my instant pot this is so quick and can be done while I'm preparing the rest of dinner if I've run …

It's the Little Things - Upcycling Pants

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My kids, like most kids are tough on their pants and usually put a hole or two in the knees before they out grow them. We had accumulated quite a few pairs, so in an effort to check a few easy projects off the to do list and to be ready for warmer weather (wishful thinking in the middle of a January deep freeze) I cut them off and hemmed them make a few bike shorts for my daughter to wear under her dresses and a pair of shorts (not shown in the before picture) for my son. 

 Ta-da!  5 pairs of shorts for my daughter and 1 for my son.

Done is less than 30 minutes and a 1.5 m moved out of the stash ( I included these tasks/recycling projects as 0.25 m each in the stash to feel like I'm making a dent in it). Little less so as I added 3 m recenly for a couple sweater projects when I found some fabric I'd been lusting after and was suddenly 70% off. I'm trying to be mindful of any purchases I make to ensure that I'll really love what I make out of it and craft I wardrobe th…

Jalie Frédéric Hoodie

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PapaBird has been asking me to make him a sweater for awhile and when this pattern was released it jumped my project list. I wanted to make something really warm for him as the last time we went camping he shivered and complained about the local summer temperatures... Well we were camping in the mountains!

This was a good stash busting project as I used some stretch fleece I was gifted at the 2010 Pattern Review Conference in Montreal and some sweatshirting I acquired in the spring at a local fabric sale (all fabric was $1/m! Score!).





I debated lining the sweatshirt or treating the two fabrics as one and basting them together. In the end I basted together, but it would have been a nicer finish had I attempted lining. Only other slight modification I did was to use some woven bias binding along the hood, rather than cutting some knit fabric. This worked out ok. 

This was the second version I made of this pattern. I also made one for my older son back in January last year. I love the c…

Why you shouldn't take your kids with you to the fabric store...

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Because they end up convincing you to buy some flannel fabric.

My son actually needed PJs, but my daughter had more than enough clothes, but I'm a sucker for trying to keep it reasonably fair between the kids, especially when it's an impulse buy. These fabrics did not linger long in the stash when you have kids who keep asking when will they get their new outfits. 
First up I used the Mini Mouse Flannel as the skirt for Love Notions Everyday Play dress.  This is a quick and easy pattern and super cute.  I likely could have gone down a size, but I tend to go on the larger size to ensure growing room. Made her a size 3, though she's in a size 2 and almost 5! My kids are on the slim side. 


After a few more weeks of nagging, asking politely, I got around to making up a pj set using Jalie 3355
I was hesitant to buy this pattern initially as it seemed a bit basic, but it has turned out to be my most used pattern to date. I've lost track of the number of times I've made…

Meal Plan: January Week 1 Results and Week 2 Plan

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The results from Week 1:

Initial plan:
LasagnaLentil & Mushroom Pasta (Yum & Yummer page 112) skipped because made meat sauce instead.Sweet and Sour Pork (Looneyspoons Collection page 216)Sticky Chicky - Baked chicken in BBQ sauce ( Looneyspoons Collection page 167), Mashed Potatoes, Carrots and Broccoli Switched to Pork chopsPizza with Sausage and PeppersSausage cabbage skillet with perogiesChili  Moved to next week What we actually ate:
Friday: Pizza with Sausage and Peppers: Made some pizza dough and let the kids make some individual pizzas. Took out the sausages (costco pack) so used a couple here and a couple throughout the other meals. Beets on the side as the plastic container of pickled beets fell out of the fridge and cracked, requiring immediate consumption. 
The adult pizza. Leftovers did lunch on Sunday. Saturday: Lasagna  and baked bread
Sauted up all the ground beef as I'd frozen the 2 kg package whole. Also Added in about 4 sausages defrosted yesterday. Made 1 l…

Alberta Advantage? How did our cross-country move work out Financially?

In 2016 we sold our house, quit our jobs and moved cross-country and ended up in my parent's basement while we looked for jobs and attempted to re-start our lives here.

Why did we move back? To be closer to family. So our kids could grow up near their cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Leaving with no jobs or plans was the scariest thing I've ever done. We fortunately quickly found jobs, bought a new house and (surprise!) had a third baby. Overall we're quite happy here and lifestyle and financial benefits have been amazing in Alberta compared to Montreal. We've both been able to drastically cut our commutes (I can even bike to work!!) which is so beneficial for quality of life.

I wouldn't be honest if I didn't mention how much we miss our friends back East and it has been slow to develop new ones here. I will admit I'd underestimated how much I'd miss everyone. So yes, good choice overall, but we're still feeling like we are settling in.

O…

It's the Little Things: Baking Bread

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Last fall I started baking my own bread and realized it was actually pretty easy. I worked my way slowly into it, beginning by just dumping the ingredients into the bread machine. The bread was ok, but if this was going to become our main source of bread, I'd need to get a bit better at it. Then I started just using the dough function and baking the loaves in the oven. That improved the density of the bread (most of the time), but I was needing to bake twice a week to get the roughly 4 loaves my family goes through.

Around the same time my bread machine broke, my stand mixer (a lower end model) did too, so I took advantage of a Costco sale on the KitchenAid Stand mixers and decided if I was going to spend $300 on an appliance I better use it for more than just cupcakes! I bought 2 more loaf pans and increased my recipe a bit so I could get away with making bread just once a week.

Since then I've challenged myself to not buy bread and have been curious how much it saves on the …

It's the Little things: Scrapbusting Hankercheifs

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It's cold season over here and we've been going through Kleenex like mad. I had previously sewn up some flannel scraps to use as re-usuable tissues but many seem to have disappeared over the years. Using some leftover fabric from some PJs I made my eldest I made about 30 mini-hankerchiefs.

This definitely isn't huge savings or a big environmental win, but little things can add up. The other things that make me happy about this:
Kids are excited to blow their nose now and run off to grab one from the drawer.They are much softer than Kleenex so less nose irritationReduce the waste from the leftovers and reduce some disposible products in our lifeMy favourite benefit is fewer (hopefully none) kleenex going through the wash and disintegrating into a million little pieces. If these get forgotten, I just pull them out and put them in the dirty laundry pile to re-wash properly. 


The mini-hankies and small amount of leftover waste. 
Stash busting notes :  0.5 m used up, 118.5 m re…

The Fabric Stash

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As far as fabric stashes go, I don't feel that mine is too bad or is that just me enabling myself? However, if I'm honest I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by it. My environmental side makes it hard to throw things out that I could re-purpose and frugal side makes it hard to give away things I spent money on, or may be able to use later. I've never had a larger collection before and I want to feel like I'm making progress using it up.

These are not the prettiest before and after pics, but now at least I have an inventory or what I have, and next step is to finish some projects.
 The before
The other day I managed to steal a couple hours while the baby napped and get a rough estimate of the current stash. This, plus the boxes seen in front of the wardrobe total about 119 m of fabric and clothing to recylce (not including the 1.5 m that is going to be donated, will add more next year if not sewn up). YIKES!!

After re-folding it's looking a bit better. At least I k…

Meal Plan: January Week 1

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Throughout this year I'll try to update the meal plan and groceries.

What I bought:
Costco Shop: $43



The plan:

LasagnaLentil & Mushroom Pasta (Yum & Yummer page 112)Sweet and Sour Pork (Looneyspoons Collection page 216)Sticky Chicky - Baked chicken in BBQ sauce ( Looneyspoons Collection page 167), Mashed Potatoes, Carrots and BroccoliPizza with Sausage and PeppersSausage cabbage skillet with perogiesChili The results:
Will include what I actually made and ate next week.



Groceries

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Operation Lower Grocery Bill:

My goal for this year is to keep our spending around $675-700/month. I've been tracking our spending for the last 4 years and our groceries has averaged out around $700-750 per month. Over that time we've moved cross country and our family has grown and the kids have started to require lunches at school rather than have them provided by daycare, so technically our price per meal has decreased.

For a bit of context in 2015-2016 we were still living in Quebec where food is assumed to be cheaper than Alberta where we are now. Beginning of 2015 (Feb-May) we had an aupair living with us with some dietarty restrictions that bumped our costs up,



2015 Spending
2016 Spending
 In 2016 we were planning our cross-country move so focused on eating down the pantry and freezers. That really dropped the costs for a couple months. Then July to August we lived with my parents while getting settled and finding jobs. Our "rent" was taking care of the meal p…

Welcome to our FI-Nest

Starting a new blog always seems to beg the question, start with an introduction when you know no one is really reading, or just dive right into content? For organizational sake I feel I should provide a little background and blog goals. For the moment this blog will serve as a journal of my family's journey to FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). Not sure how early the retirement part will come so we are focused on the Financial Independence part and the freedom that gives us to find our best life. 
Who are we and what's our best life?
Well, really it's just me who will be journaling our journey. PapaBird has come around to FI but does not get the RE idea. However we've always been good savers throughout our relationship and now I'm focused on accelerating that journey as I'm losing the motivation to keep advancing in my career and would rather more free time.
I'm a 38 year old woman, wife, mother, maker and well not sure what else to add. I'm a…