Costco- To Buy or Not to Buy

A Costco recently opened up near our house (after much anticipation in the staff rooms, teachers really love the place). We were given a membership for an early Christmas gift. On our first visit (and so far only) the main objective, besides eat free samples, was to research prices. We checked our staples and made a list of what was a good deal, what was an okay deal, and what was to be avoided. I actually wish we had written down the price of each item. Because we shop almost solely sale items at the grocery store, it’s hard to keep track of what is a good buy. Regardless, it seems to break down pretty simply. Whole foods were a better price. This includes milk, eggs, cream, butter, milk, nuts, quinoa, hemp seeds, maple syrup and broth (which I guess isn’t really a whole food). The big exception to this is produce. This seemed expensive to me. Anything processed is to be avoided like the plague. I think this is where they get people. They have a very tempting baking and frozen foods section. I noticed a lot of cheese cake. These things were all very expensive.

It takes a transition to start shopping at a wholesale type store. You definitely need a list. It also helps to be familiar with what you normally pay for an item per unit (ie. grams or ounces) because the chances of seeing it in the same size as normally are slim. Impulse buys at stores like these can easily end up costing you hundreds, since the items are huge. I also think it’s key to avoid the middle section where the ‘stuff’ is. If you didn’t come to the grocery store to buy an office chair, you probably shouldn’t be leaving with one.

I think the ideal situation would be sharing a membership amongst 2 families. That way you don’t have to store preposterously large things in the kitchen (our box of 68 nature valley bars barely fit, but at 17 cents a bar we couldn’t resist). You also don’t run the risk of things spoiling or expiring before you get through them. I’m sure Costco has ways to prevent you from doing this, but finding a way would be worth it.

Advertisements

Preparing for Holiday Madness

Our tree is decorated, though somewhat crooked.

IMG_2599Our gifts are wrapped, except Kurt’s stuff which has yet to arrive, eek!

IMG_2596

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

IMG_2601Now all that’s left to think about is our whirlwind schedule. As usual, we will be travelling way to much this holiday season. It’s exhausting just to think about. Worse than the exhaustion, however, is the out-of-wack stomach I am always left with. Fast food during drives, holiday baking and eating at other people’s houses aren’t great for me. When I’m at home I can control what I eat easily, and avoid foods that are problems, but at other people’s houses I don’t have that luxury. I’m trying to create a game plan to make the holidays a little easier on my stomach. So far this is what it involves:

IMG_2598I’m going to start taking probiotics a couple of days before we leave and continue to take them everyday until we are home again. Hopefully this will help my digestion a little. I will also take a multi vitamin every day that we are away to make sure that I am getting what I need. I also will be trying to drink a lot of water and eat very little meat and fried stuff, as these are the worst offenders for me.

I’m really hoping this all helps and that it isn’t too difficult to do all of this. Holidays are the worst time for sticking to anything dietary!

Quinoa Burgers

We went through our pantry items a while ago and discovered we had a boatload of quinoa. It’s one of those foods that super good for you, but I have a really hard time finding ways to cook it. I wish I liked it enough to just eat plain, but I definitely don’t. This recipe is great because it you can do a lot with it. Here’s the link. I pretty much stuck to the recipe. I used grated carrot, much less cottage cheese (I only had a little), added some chopped spinach and used two eggs instead of three. Also, mine look terrible compared to the links. Seriously, how do people make their veggie burgers look so nice? There must be a secret that no one is telling me. As for toppings, we put spinach and Kurt’s latest batch of feta. I thought afterwards that I should have put some black olives and oregano in the burgers, maybe next time.

IMG_2592

I forgot to take a picture of them all topped and plated, we were very hungry!

Meal Planning

*Note* I thought I published this post days ago, for some reason it just stayed in my draft folder, sorry!

Last week we tried something new. After a couple of weeks of, “what should we do for dinner?” being thrown around a lot and a few meals of Jamaican patties I finally decided we needed to try to plan our meals. This just involves writing out 7 days worth of meals that we can have. I do this after we go shopping because we pretty much only buy food that’s on sale. I create meals based on what we already have. We don’t cook the type of food that requires specific ingredients, and causes people to have to rush out to the store before dinner because they are missing that one crucial thing. We create meals around whats in the kitchen, substitute or just throw a bunch of things in the pot and see what happens. Really though we just cook simple food so by buying a few staple things, there are always a lot of meal options.

Last week it worked really well. If one night the listed meal was not what we felt like eating, we just had left overs, or something else. It wasn’t a big deal. I think the key is to not have it written in stone so that you feel limited. It was great to have a plan though and to have an idea so that if we didn’t know what we wanted there was something already thought about. It really decreased the amount of staring forlornly into the fridge and thinking that there was nothing in there. It also seemed to lower the amount of vegetables sitting in the fridge aging, but this may have more to do with the fact that the grocery store sales have been crappy lately so we haven’t been buying much (this is probably a good thing).

This week is already planned and the food is bought so we are ready to go! Hopefully the week goes just as well as last week meal wise.

Picaboo Photo Book

A couple of weeks ago I saw a Wagjag for a getting a photo book printed. I had been thinking about getting one made and I jumped at the opportunity (after reading some reviews to make sure). I got it through Picaboo, an American company that has been around for a while, but doesn’t seem to be one of the really big names in photo books.

I didn’t download any software to make the book, it was done all through the website. I think there is a way to do it on your computer, but I couldn’t find it, and I really didn’t feel the need. It was super easy to do and very quick. The hardest part was choosing which pictures to put in. After that I just uploaded them (it uploads the pictures while you are building the book so there is no time lost), placed my pictures, added some text and backgrounds and I was done. I only had a couple of small problems with lagging while trying to crop pictures and there were a few annoyances with pictures moving whenever I deleted one, but overall, it was great.

I’m really happy with the quality of the book. The paper feels really nice and high quality. There were no mistakes made either, which has happened to friends through other printers. The turn around time was quick, especially for International shipping.

My best advice for these types of services is to never pay full price. I think it could get pretty pricey if you did. There always seems to be sales, or Wagjags or Groupons or whatever running, so wait a week or two and I’m sure it will save you a bunch of money.

I think I will make one every year, almost like a family ‘yearbook’. Much easier than scrapbooking or even printing pictures.

IMG_2590Here’s the cover

And a 2 page spread (it looks much nicer in person, the sun setting at 4:30 doesn’t allow for good pictures)

IMG_2591

**This post is not sponsored, it’s just my humble opinion**

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

IMG_2583

The other day I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade chocolate syrup. The recipe is super easy, just mix sugar and cocoa powder together, add some water and boil then add vanilla. It actually tastes very similar to store bought chocolate syrup and not only is it much cheaper, but there also isn’t any strange junk in it (as long as you’re okay with sugar!). So far I’ve used it in chocolate milk, hot chocolate and I plan to make an ice cream sundae before too long! It’s such a simple thing that I would have never considered making myself. Give it a try!

IMG_2584

Toddler Toys

Last weekend we got to work finishing up some Christmas crafting. We didn’t actually finish, but we got one of the bigger jobs out of the way. We made our nephew’s present. We wanted to make him something that had a learning aspect to it. We decided to make matchy men. We started with little wooden peg men (we found some great one’s in hats!) and wooden cups. We painted them in sets so that they match.

IMG_2562Here they are lined up in the box we bought to put them in.

IMG_2570Here they are in their cups.

IMG_2571This is a super easy craft, although Kurt took his half to the next level (note the mustache). I still have to seal them with non toxic spray. Otherwise, they are all done and I think they look great. Hopefully the little guy likes them just as much.