Thursday, February 27, 2020

Frugal Food Shopping and Cost Comparisons

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I make a good effort to live frugally and find a bargain for virtually everything.

In this new year I am experimenting with going farther afield (on public transit) to buy good quality food rather than just my local grocer.  Last week I shopped at a place called Young Bros. Produce which is across town on the way to the University of British Columbia. It was recommended by a neighbour in one our hallway chats.  As it happens I have shopped here a few times before but it's been many years since I was last there and I did not know the store by name.

The photo below will show my produce haul.  It cost $24 Canadian  ($18 US, $27.50 Australian, 16.80 , 2026 Japanese Yen and 1840 Kenyan shillings).  I found the prices to be quite low compared to most other places in the city and the produce is fresh. All of this produce would cost two or two and half times more if I bought it at my local grocer.  The downsides are that the store is very crowded with hardly any room to maneuver and they only take cash.

I bought about a quart of white mushrooms, 2 large English cucumbers, 2 large zucchini (courgettes), 1 small bunch of spinach, 6 small red peppers (capsicum), 1 big crown of broccoli, 1 small bag of green beans, 6 medium to large bananas, 9 small blood oranges, 6 navel oranges. All this cost $24 Canadian dollars.  I still have a small bunch of spinach, some red peppers, broccoli, courgette and green beans left to use this week but am all out of fruits.

Yesterday (Wednesday)  I tried a different place, called Persia.  They have several locations in the city and have very good reviews. 

This haul came to just over $34 Canadian ( $25.50 US dollars,$38.84 Australian dollars,  just over 23 , 2800 Japanese Yen, 2600 Kenyan shillings).

I bought: 6 bananas, 4 large mandarin oranges, 6 medium blood oranges, 4 navel oranges, 2 grapefruit, 1 sweet lemon, 2 pints of strawberries, 3 small jalapeno peppers, 2 small eggplants, 1 bunch of spinach, a small handful of grape tomatoes, 2 avocados, 1 sangak bread ($2.99), 1 container of smoked paprika $2.99), 900 gr bag of green lentils (not pictured) and one 454 gr bag of black eyed peas ($2.99).  I have plenty of vegetables for the week ahead and lots of beans, lentils etc.

Cost wise it seems fairly similar to Young Bros. Produce on W. Broadway; maybe even a bit cheaper. It has the advantage of being a single bus ride from my home and more room to maneuver my shopping trolley while shopping. It also has alternative forms of payment which for me is far better than only having to pay by cash. I seldom have much cash on me.

This is my meat haul from a week ago. There is enough for 3 more dinners.

The meat (ground beef and roast) was packaged into portions for hamburger patties, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, stir  fry (2) and a roast. I also bought a small package of chicken wings (not pictured).  This was all purchased at the usual neighbourhood grocery stores and  cost a total of  $37 Canadian dollars ($27.75, $42.20 Australian, 25.36 €, 3054 Japanese Yen, 2802 Kenyan Shillings). 
I bought 10 kg of flour a few days ago.  It was on sale for $9.99 rather than the usual $13.99.  This large bag will last for up to 6 months if I make bread every week or so. I'll need more yeast before I run out of flour.

It's still been cold at night.  I like to have hot  decaf tea or herbal tea to warm up and sometimes have a muffin.  I made Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins last time instead of the usual Blueberry with white flour.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and added bran to the mix of ingredients.  They were delicious.  I prefer blueberry muffins and also cranberry muffins and alternate between these two over the seasons when it isn't too hot for baking.

All in all I'm pleased with the prices I've managed to get on these last few shopping expeditions.  I'm always keen to get a good price on foods and I'm also always curious about how much others pay for their foods. 

What I've discovered over time is that while Canada doesn't have the highest food prices, we certainly are no where near the least expensive.  Our neighbours to the south and some of our farther flung neighbours, like England, seem to pay a lot less for food than we do.  Canada is also such a vast country and the food prices vary wildly depending on where you live.  People who live in the far north, like Iqaluit, and other northern communities, pay an astronomical amount for fresh produce. In the Arctic one cannot grow fresh produce and it is very expensive to have it shipped in.  I can also say that food prices have skyrocketed in the last few years but that is probably true of most countries.

Added: By the way, this is a bit off topic but I wanted to say that I am also trying to change my ways when it comes to plastics. I go through phases of doing well and then not so well with reducing the use of plastics in stores. It can be rather challenging. Then too I am using plastics when I portion out foods for freezing. If I use plastic bags to store breads and muffins I reuse these many times over. But if I use them to store meat I discard them. 

I have actually purchased reusable net bags for my produce but right now I only have 3 of them. I need many more. I also intend to purchase silicone bags for freezing foods when my budget allows. I do use glass containers for storing food in the refrigerator when there are left over items.  All in all, if one wants to reduce or eliminate plastics altogether it can be very challenging at the best of times. One does have to try though for the sake of our environment. You would be amazed that there are now even plastic particles in the air we breathe. Particles which you obviously cannot see. Beyond that, I'm sure most of you are now aware that there is so much plastic in our oceans that ocean life is ingesting it. The problem of plastics is enormous. I cannot get into the issue properly here but I just wanted to point out that I am aware of the issue and my contribution to it. I am trying to do something about it.  Whatever plastics come into this household, are reused as much as possible before discarding. It would be better if stores and sellers did not wrap everything in so much plastic to begin with.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Bit of Sunshine

We've broken records for rainfall in 2020 and I haven't felt much like taking photos.  When we get a few days of sunshine like we have over the past several days, it is a pure joy.

There were multiple signs of spring on a recent outing.  I don't think I've ever noticed these pussy willows in previous years.

I hurriedly snapped a few photos with my phone's camera of both the pussy willows and the croci.

Croci coming up

Indoors I'm babying these small Fiddle Leaf Fig plants purchased in December.  I've managed to keep them alive through the cold winter months and they will be ready to be repotted in a few weeks time.

Two new leaves have come out since mid-December (the small ones at the top).

When I purchased the two plants this one in the top photo didn't look like it would survive.  The large leaf at the top had some holes in it. I'm not sure what causes the problem but it doesn't seem to have gotten any worse. I've called her Mary.

The other plant looked healthier but was very slow to grow a new leaf. One has come out and a second one has been looking to sprout over the past week or more. It might take awhile longer.  I've called this one Harry and he is a big brother to Mary. 

I've heard it said that one should talk to their plants.  This idea has been around since the late 1800s and has actually been a subject of a small study. You can read more about it here.  I've never been one for talking to plants but I try it now and then. Truth be told, long ago when my late mom started growing indoor plants, she talked to them because she heard from someone that talking to them helped them grow.  She had tremendous success with her plants.

The smaller, lighter green leaf in front is the new one. Can you see the little green shoot coming out?

I'll be linking up with Skywatch Friday this week.

 Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Welcome to February

Hi friends,

Time is flying by. I'm glad to see the backside of January and say 'welcome' February. January ushered in the New Year quite rudely in my life with sickness (a lingering cold and a weird skin infection for which I've gone to the doctor and a specialist), my nephew's near death accident, a compromised credit card (usual process of investigation is ongoing and I have received my new card), very stormy weather in Canada and in my province with road closures due to heavy snowstorms (highways were closed more than once), record rainfall with accompanying landslides and other destruction (one parking lot crumbled behind a restaurant not too far from me and now the powers that be have decided to shut the restaurant down due to the uncertainty of land stability), the onset of the worldwide global health crisis (my province has tested 114 people and confirmed one case of the coronavirus; Canada has 4 cases overall with 3 in Ontario).  I thank God that through it all he has preserved me and my family and I look forward with gratitude to what lies ahead.

I want to thank all of you who have prayed for my nephew's recovery. It is remarkable how God not only preserved him from death but is helping him recover. What was first thought to be a broken shoulder was found to be dislocated and reconnected. He has been released from hospital and is recovering at home.  I ask for continued prayers that he doesn't suffer any long standing damage to bones and tissue from the heavy blow his body and that God would provide for all the needs of his family.  I give thanks to God and those who prayed for him. I do not know how long it will be before he can return to work but he is well on his way to recovery and all of his family is grateful.

In late January my friend Eunice in Kenya also suffered a setback. I somehow feel this may have been deliberate negligence of the hospital which is responsible feeding her the special diet we provide and also giving her medication and water. She became severely dehydrated and we then had to provide several bags of  IV fluid. Private hospitals and hospital in general are notorious for bilking the patients and finding all kinds of reasons for charging more money for this and for that, much of it unnecessary. Now today I learned that over the weekend she has been suffering from cold and I'm not certain whether she has not had enough blankets or whether she has malaria. Jonah has had to camp at the hospital to ensure that she is getting proper care.

This poor woman has been through a lot but through it all God has preserved her. Her blood condition is in fact improving and it is unfortunate that this latest setback had to occur and cause fear and financial loss. Please continue to pray for her. At this point the hospital bill has grown enormously as we can only afford to pay for urgent interventions (IV, special diet, blood, hormone medication) and a privately hired nurse to ensure that we understand everything that we need to understand. Jonah is there to attend to much of Eunice's needs however as a man in his culture he is not permitted to do certain things and that is why we have hired a nurse who is also from Eunice's tribal group. (The Go Fund Me Campaign is still open if you can help with any of Eunice's costs. See side bar to the right of the blog).

I do not have a recent update on Ernest since his last surgery.  However he continues to be monitored at the hospital both for his leg and for the diabetes and to receive his medication each week at the hospital. Thank you to one of my blog readers for assisting us financially so that Ernest can get the food and other care he needs. It has been a huge blessing and a help.  Ernest has monthly food needs and medication which costs about $ 150 US funds monthly ($200 Canadian) at minimum. Once he is nutritionally stronger and he can stand on both legs, we hope he could work again as a barber.  If you feel you can help him on a regular basis, kindly let me know.

Jonah himself was sick and in hospital for about 5-6 days. He contracted some kind of bug from suspected contamination of water. He got very sick and tried OTC medicine before checking into hospital. Then he checked out of hospital to try and save funds. I insisted he return to hospital until the laboratory tests were available which he did and spent a further 2 days in hospital before feeling strong enough to discharge.

Finally, I have reported before about Alvin who is hoping to come to Canada to do a Master's program.  It has been a long and very involved and expensive process to assist Alvin, a young man in Kenya, to submit his applications to a university in BC. He has now submitted to 2 programs one located in Vancouver and another located in the Okanagan.  We are praying he will be accepted and one of the programs.  He is also looking for sources of funding both in Kenya and in Canada to help him pay for his studies and living costs. If anyone would like to help this international student kindly let me know.


I didn't get a chance to review 2019 and post my reflections. Too much time has passed for that so I only wish to state I was looking forward to 2020 and an opportunity to work on new goals. I am making slow but steady progress on them.

I also wanted to share this little graphic about my reading goal for 2019. Some of you might remember my reading goals for 2019 was a modest 25 books. I deliberately set it low so that I could focus on real enjoyment of reading and if I read more that was a bonus.In 2020 amongst other goals I hope to read 45 books and am off to a good start.

I spent a lot of time in January cooking and trying new dishes. I also made a lot of bread as a way to reduce spending on groceries. I like to make yeast bread but as any of you who make bread knows, the process can take a long time out of one's day. I found this new to me recipe that allows you to make artisanal bread in just about one hour. I then experimented with it to make regular loaves of read for toast and sandwiches.  I'm quite pleased with how the bread has turned out in my experiments. These bread baking experiments are allowing me to use a large bag of flour, a lot of expired yeast (which is still proofing properly), save money on bread buying and enjoy some home baking.

These are the artisanal style loaves.

I shaped the dough into regular loaves but had to add more flour. I let it rise one extra time.

This recipe is No Knead, No Time Bread and only takes an hour or an hour and some minutes from start to finish. 
The bread turned out quite well after figuring out how to work with the sticky dough.
Here is the recipe if you would like to try it.

In closing I leave you with a view of the mountains today. The sky had a pretty pink glow.
Click photos to enlarge.

City Gardens, Weather & Cooking

Hello dear friends and fellow bloggers, Time passed too quickly this month and before you know it May will be here.  With it's return th...