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Is online grocery shopping worth it?

I first heard about online grocery shopping a few years ago when I lived in a neighbourhood without amenities within walking distance. I used to dread spending the time, energy, and gas money going to the grocery store each week. I was working 70 hours, and a trip to the store could easily take one or two hours out of my day. It didn’t seem worth the hassle, and I often bought take-out instead because it was easier – not great for my waistline or my wallet. :|

When my neighbour told me she had started ordering her groceries online, I was intrigued. For a small fee, she was able to do all her shopping on the internet, and choose the delivery time most convenient for her. It seemed like the perfect solution to my time crunch, so I decided to try it out. It was great, and I used the service a couple of times before I ended up moving into my current home – which is more conveniently located for shopping.

But, I’m feeling the time crunch again. Even though I’m only working 50-55 hours/week, I find myself busy after work almost every day of the week – field hockey practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and running Monday, Wednesday, Fridays. Weekends are filled with more running, field hockey games, and social commitments that I’m never able to fit in during the work week. I was finding it hard to go anywhere but Safeway for my groceries (a 5 minute walk from my house), but everything is so expensive there.

So, I decided to try ordering groceries from my preferred store, Thrifty Foods. They charge a flat rate of $7.95 for next day service (same day is $9.95), which I thought was reasonably priced considering it would cost me $4.60 in gas to drive there and back, plus at least an hour of my time.

It took me about 15 minutes to order all of my groceries online (I did it over my lunch break at work), and I was impressed. I felt like I was able to stop my impulse purchases (which were almost always junk food), and I could see the total amount of my order as I shopped – which helped me stay on budget.

Online grocery shopping at Thrifty Foods

Online grocery shopping at Thrifty Foods

 

What impressed me about Thrifty Foods is their customer service, although I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve shopped with them for as long as I can remember, and it’s always been top notch. Their customer service reps will call you if anything you’ve ordered is out of stock, and suggest replacement items for you instead. Their delivery drivers are extremely friendly, and I feel really happy with how I was treated.

Related: 30 days as a pescetarian – what I learned

However, even though I’ve had some really positive experiences, and the service fees are reasonable, there are definitely cons to having groceries delivered.

For example, even though I was able to leave a note attached to each product I put into my online shopping basket, I almost never got the fruits the way I would have picked them out myself. “Slightly green bananas” can mean different things to different people, I guess. :) Additionally, it’s kind of inconvenient to have to wait at home for the delivery to arrive (a 1.5 hour window), and every other week I end up having to make a supplementary trip to the local Asian market anyway to pick up produce and other perishables.

I don’t think this is something I would do on a weekly, or even a bi-weekly basis. But I do think it’s something I would do every few months when I have a big shopping trip ahead of me.

In theory, anyone with a busy schedule can benefit from ordering groceries online. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to use the service again! However, it might only be worth it on a regular basis for the following types of people:

  • People who don’t have vehicles, and cannot make big trips to the grocery store for regular staples.
  • The elderly, disabled, or injured, who find it difficult getting out of the house.
  • Those who live far from any reasonably priced stores.

Have you – or would you – ever go online grocery shopping?

Holy Crap Cereal Recipe

holycrap_vs_homemadeI first heard about Holy Crap Cereal while watching Dragon’s Den, and I’ve often seen it on the shelves at my local grocery store. But to be honest, the poor packaging stopped me from ever giving it a second thought. But then… I fell in love with the cereal last month when I tried a sample at the Goodlife Marathon race expo in Victoria. After tasting it, I immediately bought a bag for $10 (retails in stores for $10-12 before tax).

A recent 2012 Dragon’s Den special update show declared Holy Crap the most successful business to ever come out of the Den, and it’s not surprising. I’ve found the product is great for sports (as fuel before my runs, or snacking on while hiking), and the website claims it’s great for celiacs, people with high blood pressure, or those with food sensitivities.

I love everything about it: from the way it looks, to the way it smells, and of course – it tastes amazing. The almost gelatinous texture is fun, yet it’s likely not for everybody. :) And since I’m not big on breakfast or eating before I workout, I like how you only need a small amount per serving (2 tablespoons, combined with non-dairy milk will fill you up for hours). That leaves me satisfied, yet never feeling bloated or heavy.

My only problem is that it’s so expensive. When a 225 gram (8 oz.) bag that contains 8-10 servings is sold for an average of $11? That was enough to kill a little bit of my frugal, yet health-conscious heart. So I did what any PF blogger would do: I tried to replicate the cereal myself. And I think I was pretty successful! :)

Holy Crap Cereal Homemade Holy Crap Cereal

How to make Holy Crap Cereal at home:

So, the ingredient list is pretty simple: organic chia, organic buckwheat, organic hulled hemp seeds, organic raisins, organic dried cranberries, organic apple bits, and organic cinnamon.

This means that the cereal is kosher, gluten-free, lactose-free, and vegan. It contains 24% of your recommended daily fiber intake, and 20% iron intake.

Nutritional info per 2 tablespoons (for original Holy Crap Cereal recipe): 130 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mc sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 5 g protein.

I did make some changes to the ingredients though, and after a bit of tinkering, I came up with this recipe using all organic products:

Makes approximately 40 servings (2 tablespoons per serving):

1 and 1/2 cup of chia seeds
1 and 1/4 cup of buckwheat groats
1 and 3/4 cup of shelled hemp seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Serve with 4 tablespoons of your choice of non-dairy milk. I like unsweetened coconut milk, with a pinch of flaked coconut mixed in. 

Note: I omitted the organic apple bits because 1) I was too lazy to cut them up into “bits” and 2) I wanted to add in the flaked coconut instead. I also omitted the organic cinnamon because I didn’t think it was necessary. But also because I forgot to add it in, and it tasted just fine afterwards.

Cost Breakdown: Holy Crap Cereal vs. Homemade

So obviously you want to know how much I saved. :) I bought all of my ingredients from a local health food store called Galloway’s, except for the chia seeds (they were sold out). I picked those up from the bulk organic section at Thrifty Foods.

The original Holy Crap Cereal costs $11 for approx. 9 servings (averaging cost of $10-12,and  8-10 servings) = $1.22 per serving.

My homemade version costs $27.49 for approx. 40 servings = $0.69 per serving … saving me 43.4% 

Pretty good for a healthy, organic, filling breakfast cereal! :)

Has anyone had this cereal before, or tried replicating a product at home?

Bought a Breville Juicer!

Breville_JuicerLast night I bought what I have been wanting to buy for about a year: the Breville BJE510XL Juicer. I didn’t work it into my June budget, but I think it’s the right time to buy it. I’ve been wanting to do a juice cleanse for a few years now, but it’s hard to find the right time. Field hockey season doesn’t work because I can’t have any down time, which eliminates most of the year. And during the summer, it’s hard to avoid patio season and hanging out with friends.

But in a couple of weeks, I have to get a medical procedure done. This means I won’t be able to do any sort of exercise for one week, and I’ll have to take it pretty easy for 2-3 weeks afterwards. I don’t know if that means I won’t be able to run for 3-4 weeks, but what I do know is that I have a one week window where I am required to do zero physical activity – perfect for a juice cleanse.

For the most part, juicing is not exactly a frugal thing to do. Even though I am saving money by not buying meat (yes, I am still a pescetarian!), the cost of fresh veggies definitely will add up. And it will be interesting to see just how much my grocery costs increase next month because of it. But the good news is, during the summer there’s plenty of cheaper veggies, so it will likely be less expensive than in the winter. :)

The juicer itself was expensive. I could have bought a cheaper brand, but I think when it comes to things like this, you get what you pay for. So I bought it for $199. There was a refurbished one available for $129-149, but about 30% of the comments I saw were about the juicer not working out of the box. I know a lot of PF bloggers say that refurbished products are fine, and I agree for the most part. But played it safe buying the new one after reading the refurbished reviews.

As for the cost, I felt a bit guilty making such a conscious decision to ruin my budget this month, so I picked up two one-off freelance writing gigs, and am currently contemplating another.

Those that have a juicer, or have done a juice cleanse before – I’m looking for advice. What are your favourite recipes? Do you have any tips for a beginner juicer?

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