The Gro Clock Let Me Reclaim My Mornings!

I love spending time with my kids. But like pretty much every parent I’ve encountered, I also relish what little quiet, alone time I can get these days.

For me, that personal time has typically occurred first thing in the morning before anyone else in the house is awake.

Ever since I entered the real world and got a full time job, I’ve been an early riser. I’m usually out of bed by 5:30 a.m., so the early mornings that came with parenthood weren’t really much of an adjustment for me so long as I had a decent night’s sleep. Thankfully, we’ve had two pretty good sleepers, so sleep deprivation has only been an issue a handful of times.

Before our kids came along I’d use the hour or two that I had between my wake up time and FM’s to do things I enjoyed and ease myself into my day. Depending on the time of year and the weather outside, I’d so things like workout in our basement, go for jogs, ride my bike, watch sports highlights, enjoy a coffee while I read or wrote, and get myself ready for the day.

That free time obviously diminished when the kids came along, but I was still able to squeeze in a couple of those solo activity sessions each week.

A couple of months ago, our toddler started eliminating them entirely though. He suddenly decided to push his morning wake up time earlier and earlier. It got to the point that he was essentially serving as my alarm clock, calling for me or FM at crazy early hours and refusing to even consider going back to sleep.

If we tried to get him back down, he’d either be up calling for us within 15 minutes or would start crying, waking up his sister in the process and putting an end to any hope FM and I had for a normal night’s rest.

Because I’m an early riser, I would usually get up with him. It was great to spend some one on one time with him, but it also eliminated any hope I had of doing the things I enjoyed in my early morning alone time.

We hoped it was just another phase he was going through, but it got to the point after a few weeks that we decided we had to do something about it for all our sakes. He needed more sleep, FM and our daughter needed better sleeps, and I was definitely open to the idea of a less hectic morning so I could ease myself into my days again.

As she does with pretty much any kid-related issue we encounter, FM did some research on how to keep your toddler quiet and in bed in the morning.

One of the more interesting things she came across a product called the Gro Clock.

Basically the clock uses images of stars and the sun to teach kids when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to get up. The stars are on with a blue screen for sleep-time, the sun appears and the screen turns yellow when it’s ok to wake up.

The one thing that worried us was the $70 cost. If we tried this clock out and he didn’t do what we were hoping for, then it would have felt like a pretty expensive experiment.

We asked around in our circle of friends and it turned out that another couple we know used the product for his own toddlers when they went through similar phases with their sleep patterns. They couldn’t say enough good things about it. We then did more research online and saw enough positive reviews that we figured it was worth a shot.

So we decided to give it a try too…and it gave me my mornings back! Best $70 we’ve spent in a while!

Our little guy has been an absolute champ with the Gro Clock from quite literally the first night we used it.

Saying “goodnight” and “see you in the morning!” to the the sun has become an exciting part of his normal bedtime routine. We give him a reminder each night that if he wakes up before the sun, he needs to either try to go back to sleep or wait quietly in his crib until the sun appears. Then he’s free to call for me of FM to come get him up for the day.

We’ve set the wake up time for 6:30 a.m., which allows me to have an hour to do some things I enjoy and get myself ready for the day before he gets up. We then have enough time left to have breakfast as a family and to get him ready for daycare before I head to work for the day after dropping him off.

It’s been a couple of months now and I can count on one hand how many times we’ve had to retrieve our son from his crib before the clock indicates he’s allowed to get up. Those rare instances have almost all been caused by dire needs for diaper changes (I won’t go into details, but I’m sure you can guess what I mean) that he simply can’t ignore.

I will acknowledge that our experience may not be what others encounter. We’re very fortunate that our little dude takes (most of) what we tell him very seriously. He’s also very keen to impress his mom and dad with his ability to listen to and understand us.

If your kid doesn’t buy in, then this is likely not going to be a worthwhile purchase. If they will though, this is an amazing way to both ensure your kids are getting the sleep they need and to reclaim your mornings!

Have you ever used a product like the Gro Clock? What was your experience like? Let me know by leaving a comment below, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Remember to check out my Resources page for other Tried and Tested Baby Gear, Recommended Readings, and Financial Services that I use in my frugal parenting endeavours.

Also remember to have a look below for the latest dishes from our  Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project.

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

 

***Full disclosure: This post contained affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more information.

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I really like trying traditional dishes from other areas of the world. I’m also a fan of spicy foods. So for me, this dish was a real hit. Unfortunately, it won’t hold up as a family friendly frugal meal because of the latter of those two likes. While this was cooking, I knew from a quick taste test that I’d be the only one of us eating it – it simply had too much heat for FM to enjoy, which means it was going to be an impossibility for the kids to try. Off to the recycle bin with this one.

This week’s selection: Caramelized Onion Pasta Carbonara

Dealing With Unexpected Expenses

Last week I wrote an article outlining my 3-Rs of Saving.

Of the three categories of savings we account for, the highest priority is the rainy days category.

Having this money set aside in what amounts to an emergency fund has been hugely important for us since we became parents.

As I said last week, FM’s maternity leaves have been a perfect example of why we keep this account in place and funded to that level. With her being off for 12-months at a time, the income she earns from employment insurance is a fraction of what she earns when collecting a regular paycheque. Couple that with the increased expenses of having another human in the house to pay for and it’s no wonder new parents can find themselves financially strained.

The rainy days account is important beyond just comfortably seeing us through a year of reduced income. And after the surprise expenses we encountered this past summer, the need for this account to exist and be well-funded was reinforced all that much more.

Between April and November, we experienced a trifecta of expensive issues that we weren’t planning on (or at least were hoping we could avoid during a maternity leave).

The first issue we encountered was our garage door opener crapping out on us a few weeks before baby #2 was due to arrive. We initially thought that this was going to be a few-hundred-dollar replacement of the opener. It turned into a multi-thousands-of-dollars, months-long, full-fledged renovation of our garage.

Things started going wrong almost immediately after we booked the installation of the opener.

As soon as the installer arrived to put in our new opener, he informed me that he wouldn’t be able to complete the work. It turned out that the amatuer installation of the previous opener had damaged the top panel of the door so badly that the new opener couldn’t be attached after the old opener was removed.

After getting a number of quotes, we discovered that replacing the panel on the 35ish-year-old, original to the house, door was going to cost nearly as much as buying an entirely new one. A few hundred dollars climbed to a couple thousand in an instant.

Not one for financial surprises, I felt a little sick to my stomach after learning this bad news. That feeling passed rather quickly though, since I quickly recognized that we had built our rainy days fund for exactly such an occurrence.

That bit of sticker shock was coupled with a dilemma of practicality.

Getting a new door put in was going to require that we empty nearly all of the contents of the garage in order for the door to be installed.

The previous owner of the house had used the space as his “man cave”, complete with ugly wall paneling, a homemade ramshackle closet, carpet in some truly bizarre places, and a massive gas shop heater hanging from the ceiling. There was also some pretty substantial issues with the drywall as a result of the mediocre DYI construction.

Needless to say, the space was ugly as sin and was in need of a total gut job to return it to some semblance of its intended use. This was something FM and I had been wanting to do since the day we moved into the house, but until the garage door issue reared its head, this project was simply never at the top of the priority list.

With a healthy rainy days fund in place, we got some more quotes, ran the numbers, and decided to go ahead with the full-on overhaul.

Did we need to do a full scale renovation of the garage? Probably not. But we had the motivation of only wanting to empty out the garage once in our lifetime at the house, and we had the means with our rainy days fund well-prepared for surprise situations such as this.

We were fortunate to work with an outstanding, very personable contractor who did a fantastic job for us. The end result was a new garage door, new opener, new (fire-rated) drywall throughout the space, a fresh new coat of paint, better storage, and no hideous hanging heater.

Almost as soon as we wrapped up the garage reno project by moving all of our stuff back from our parents’ places (they were a huge help in storing things we didn’t want to leave exposed to the elements), we were hit with a double-whammy of problems: both our refrigerator and dishwasher decided to bite the dust within days of each other.

Both appliances had been showing signs of being on their last legs for a while, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected for them to reach their inevitable end. It was surprising for them to reach that stage in such close proximity to one another.

My dismay at the prospect of doling out another large sum of money to get new appliances was again offset by the fact that I knew we had prepared ourselves for this financially.

Aside from doing the groceries, I have a genuine distaste for shopping in general. Shopping for appliances quickly became one of the more annoying processes I’ve encountered in recent memory, particularly when it came to the fridge.

Apparently our modest bungalow wasn’t built to accommodate the massive size of modern-day refrigerators. I’d wager that about 90% of the fridges on the showroom floors at the retailers we visited were so far beyond what our cabinet space was built to fit that we had to strike them from the list of considerations immediately.

With our options limited, it actually made the process of doing online research and shopping for a fridge a breeze compared to the in-store frustrations, since we were able to narrow our options to just a handful from each store that we could consider.

With a short list of options in hand, we then used the dual deaths of the two appliances to our advantage by finding a dishwasher from the same manufacturer as our fridge of choice through Costco’s website. Bundling the two appliances in the same order shaved a cool $100 off the final bill!

We hired a plumber to install the dishwasher and clean up some truly bizarre plumbing under the kitchen sink and we were back to normal kitchen operations in no time.

While not as an expensive of an endeavour as the garage renovation, replacing the appliances was another significant expense that came at a less than ideal time.

So what lessons did I learn from last summer’s surprise expenses that I’d like to pass along to you?

1. You can’t predict when these surprises will occur.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that we had been hoping to avoid dealing with the issues I talked about in this article while FM was going to be on maternity leave. As this article indicates, you can’t time these sorts of surprises – they’ll happen when they happen and you need to be prepared.

2. You NEED to have a rainy days account.

Being a homeowner comes with all sorts of issues to consider. The furnace could blow. The shingles on the roof will eventually need replacing. You could encounter water damage from floods or broken pipes. Or you could deal with the types of things we did.

To help deal with those kinds of things, it is hugely important to have some money set aside. If you don’t have a rain days account set up, I would implore you to set one up and start putting whatever money you can aside.

Financial “experts” have all sorts of suggestions as to how much that fund should have in it. Personally, I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach. So we do what makes sense for us and aim to have 25% of our net income as the balance at any given time.

Right now we’re a fair bit below that because of FM’s maternity leave and the major expenses that I outlined above. When she heads back to work in a few months, our first priority with a regular paycheque coming in will be to replenish that account to get ourselves back to a situation we’re more comfortable with.

3. Shop around when the unexpected happens and don’t get taken advantage of.

With each of the issues we encountered, we were sure not to have any knee-jerk reactions to solving our problems. We took the time to do a lot of research, get multiple quotes, and look out for the best deal available in each scenario.

It would be very easy to panic and commit to the first thing you come across that suits your needs. But we live in an age where there is more than enough information at our fingertips to help make well-informed, financially responsible decisions in a fairly short amount of time.

How do you handle emergency expenses? Do you have a rainy day fund set up or are your forced to finance these issues on credit, whether it be a Home Equity Line of Credit, loan, or credit card? Share your experiences by leaving a comment, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading and look below for the latest installment in our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Frugal Father

 

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Steak with Crispy Potatoes and Pistachio Pesto

Unlike last week’s disappointment, this was a big hit. I ended up skipping the pistachio pesto after FM reminded me that she has something of a mild allergic reaction to pistachios anytime she eats them. This made the recipe incredibly simple to prepare, with very few ingredients making for very little work. This one will get added to the keeper binder and added to the Recipes page.

This week’s selection: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

My 3-Rs of Saving

Over the last number of weeks I’ve written a bit about the debt-repayment end of things when it comes to our financial priorities (i.e. Developing Our Annual Cash-Flow Forecasts, my 2019 Goals & Objectives, and Our 100-Month Mortgage Payoff Challenge).

Today, I’m going to look at the savings side of things.

The frugal approach FM and I take with our day-to-day spending has put us in the fortunate position where we can make both savings and accelerated debt repayments an option.

I’m aware that this may not always be the case – in fact it’s almost certain not to be – but for however brief or long that period is, we would rather tackle both than spend frivolously or without care.

Way back in October, I made reference to My 3Rs of Saving in an article about My Personal Finance Guiding Principles.

Our savings are classified into three categories: rainy days, retirement, and rewards. They’re also prioritized in that order.

The rainy days category is basically our emergency fund, which we keep in a high interest savings account. We aim to keep a balance of at least 25% of our net income from the previous year. The money is there to cover things like unforeseen expenses, job losses, and the like.

FM’s maternity leaves have been a perfect example of why we keep this account in place and funded to that level.

With FM being off for 12-months at a time, her income from employment insurance is a fraction of what she earns when collecting a regular paycheque. Couple that with the increased expenses of having another human in the house to pay for and it’s no wonder new parents can find themselves financially strained.

Thankfully some of the reduction in FM’s income has been offset by me getting a promotion and raise just prior to the first maternity leave and a new, higher paying job just prior to the current one.

But even with that being the case, we’ve needed to draw on this fund from time to time over the maternity leave periods. If weren’t for the rainy days fund being topped up, we would have had to make some significant adjustments to our finances that would go far beyond being frugal.

When FM returns to work in a few months, one of our first priorities will be to get this account back up to that 25% of net income target.

Next up is the retirement category, which is pretty self-explanatory.

FM and I save for retirement independently of one-another, so we each have our own approaches that we employ.

FM has opted for an ultra-conservative, but sure-to-generate-income approach of laddering Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) in her Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA).

While I’m also fairly risk averse, I take a slightly less certain route and employ a strategy modeled after what I discovered years ago through the Canadian Couch Potato blog by utilizing a combination of Tangerine Investment Funds in both my RRSP and TFSA.

Open a Tangerine account with my Orange Key 17131375S1 and get a $50 bonus!

We each set aside some money from our adult allowances each month that goes to these accounts. As you might expect, that amount takes a substantial hit during maternity leaves. But with the latest one winding down in just a few short months, I expect we’ll be able to increase our contributions to these accounts in the not too distant future.

Finally, the rewards category is for things like travel, the (very) occasional splurge purchase, and home renovations that are on the ‘nice-to-do’ side of things as opposed to the ‘must-do’ type.

We’re not big spenders when it comes to any of these things, so we base our vacation plans, projects, and out-of-the-norm purchases on what our budget allows. Our rainy days and retirement accounts don’t get put off in favour of any of these things

This usually means “staycations” over big, international trips, small-scale projects around the house as opposed to a full-blown room re-modeling, and rare treats to ourselves and the kids such as tickets to concerts, events, or professional sports games.

These funds are also kept in a high-interest savings account to ensure we’re maximizing what little bit of interest we can earn from this remaining savings cash that we set aside.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position to set some savings aside, how do you approach it? Do you categorize things like we do or do you lump everything together? Let me know by leaving a comment, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Until next week, thanks for reading and remember to check out the latest in our progress on our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Frugal Father

***Full disclosure: Some of the links in this post may have been affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more information.

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Stout-Soaked Porterhouse with Beer Butter

This one landed with a thud. The biggest issue seemed to be the marinade. I followed the directions on the recipe, but the flavours of the Worcestershire Sauce and Dijon mustard were much too strong for our liking. FM only managed to get a single piece of steak down before the taste of the marinade overwhelmed her. Good thing I made lots of potato wedges as the side dish, because that turned into dinner for her that night!

Oddly enough, an extra steak that I made held up pretty well as leftovers the following day, but the damage was done as a dinner option: this one involves a trip to the recycle bin for the recipe sheet.

Oh well, you can’t win them all…or apparently very many – of the four recipes we’ve tried so far, only one has been kept and added to my Recipes page.

This week’s selection: Steak with Crispy Potatoes and Pistachio Pesto (Steak two weeks in a row! Nice!)

Our 100-Month Mortgage Pay-Down Challenge

***Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more information.

This month marks 8 years since FM and I took the plunge into home ownership – the single largest financial commitment we’ve ever made.

As I’ve noted before, FM and I both extremely debt-averse, so the thought of taking on a mortgage was something we didn’t take lightly.

We worked with a mortgage broker to determine a budget, bought (far) less house than lenders would have liked us to believe we could afford, and signed on to a 5-year fixed rate mortgage that had a 25-year amortization period, a great rate, and offered flexible prepayment options.

Before anyone sends me comments on this, I’m very much aware that we likely could have saved some money by going with a variable rate. But our strategy for our finances is rooted in predictability, automation, and limiting risk, so the fixed rate option was the scenario we were most comfortable with.

At some point along the way, I started reading blog posts by Sean Cooper and found myself inspired by his story. He went on to write a book about it, called Burn Your Mortgage (find it on my Resources page!), which I would highly recommend to anyone looking at purchasing a house for the first time.

Much like Sean, the thought of being burdened by a mortgage until we were into our 50s and paying tens of thousands of dollars in interest over that period became increasingly unpalatable to us.

So we decided to do something about it by taking advantage of the prepayment options our mortgage allowed for and paying off as much in advance as we could afford.

Sean went to much greater lengths to pay off his mortgage as fast as possible than FM and I were willing/able to do, but the core theme of his message resonated with us and has impacted much of our financial planning and decision-making in recent years.

After a couple of years of slowly increasing our payments, I got this idea in my head in early 2015 that it would be amazing to have the mortgage fully paid off by the time we both hit our 40th birthdays.

I took a look at the calendar to figure out how many months we had to work with in order to accomplish that feat and realized that my 40th birthday was exactly 100 months away at that time.

And so began our 100-month mortgage paydown challenge.

As of today, we’ve paid off 37.5% of our mortgage in 49 months since we got more aggressive with our prepayments.

Our bank currently shows May 2028 as our projected payoff date, which would make FM and I 45 at the time we hit mortgage-freedom. That’s still about 8 years ahead of where we would have ended up had we only made the minimum payment for the entire 25-year amortization period, but that calculation only takes into account the regular, topped-up bi-weekly payments that we’re making. What it doesn’t factor in is the additional prepayments we’re making directly on the principal.

We’re currently maxing-out the 25% top-up we’re permitted on the regular bi-weekly payments and we’re now up to $150 bi-weekly payments on the principal. Based on the numbers I’ve run, if we continue to increase those additional prepayments on the principal at the same pace we have been since 2016, we’re on track to be mortgage free in early-2025.

That’s still about two years after the deadline for our 100-month goal, but with some careful planning and by continuing our frugal approach to our spending, it’s a goal that certainly well within reach.

So how do we keep up the prepayment plan now that kids are in the picture?

The same way that we approach frugality in general: it’s a trained behaviour that takes a great deal of repetition, dedication, and foresight.

I basically build our annual cashflow calculations around our debt repayments and our spending habits have adjusted to accommodate them. By planning our spending around our increased debt repayments, we’ve pretty much trained our brains to think that those numbers are the minimum payments.

This also provides us with something of a safety-net if we ever encounter a financial challenge such as a job loss or unexpected home repair. If something like that ever comes up in the future and we need to find some extra money to get by, all we have to do is revert to a lower payment and we can have upwards of a few hundred dollars a month to get us through.

Are you trying to get out from under your mortgage sooner than later as well? Do you have a specific target date in mind? What strategies are you using to put some extra money towards paying down that debt? Let me know by leaving a comment, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Until next week, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Margherita Penne

This was one of those dishes that was good, but not great. It was fairly easy to prepare, so I wasn’t forced to spend a ton of time being occupied in the kitchen, which is a plus in FM’s books. The end result was a nice, lightly creamy dish, but it didn’t have a particularly strong flavour to it which was disappointing. Another downfall for this recipe was the cost of the fresh parmesan and bocconcini the recipe calls for. They’re not particularly cheap cheeses and the packages I had to buy far exceeded the amount required for the recipe, so it made for a higher upfront cost than most meals I would make. Final verdict: send it to the recycle bin.

This week’s selection: Stout-Soaked Porterhouse with Beer Butter

Tried and Tested Baby Gear – Munchkin Weighted Straw Sippy Cup

***Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. See my disclaimer for more information.

One of the main reasons that I started this website and blog was to try and be something of a resource for other new parents who were dealing with the new financial realities of parenthood. Admittedly, I also thought the potential of earning some affiliate income from readers buying products I have already tried and tested was appealing too. Diversifying my income streams is included in my personal finance guiding principles after all.

When I was brand new to the parenting game, I had a difficult time finding much in the way of resources from other new parents that provided me with useful, practical money-saving tips on which products worked best for them and why they’d recommend them.

By money-saving, I don’t necessarily mean the cheapest. In fact, that’s rarely the case. What I mean is ‘what will get us the best bang for our buck?’. That’s the definition of frugal that FM and ascribe to: making the most economic means of our limited resources.

Related Article: Frugal Finds – A Bargain on a Big Boy Bed

FM and I are the kind of couple that tends to do a ton of research before committing to a major purchase. With a new, tiny human being to make purchases for, almost everything we bought got hyper-scrutinized. We wanted to ensure the products were safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

Sure, there was plenty out there from manufacturers and brands touting how great their own products were. And there were the countless reviews on Amazon to go with each of the 56,215,392,447 (give or take) baby products that it offers through its platform.

But none of it felt concise or trustworthy enough to rely on. The lack of succinct, reliable information was certainly a frustration for us.

While we (ok, mostly FM) did tons of research on what to buy and where we could get the best price, we ended up taking some risks (albeit fairly calculated) and ultimately making some spending mistakes along the way.

On some things we hit on and made the right call, on others we didn’t. Thankfully the mistake tended to be on lower-cost products than the big-ticket items.

One area we really struggled with was with sippy cups when out son was ready to start using one.

At some point I’m going to do an article on all the things you don’t need as a parent, but for today I’m going to focus on a product we ended up being very happy with and would suggest to any of our friends or family going through a similar struggle with finding the right sippy cup for their own kid(s).

That product is the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup.

munchkin weighted straw sippy cup

Before we had kids, we heard friends complain about being on the third, fourth, or fifth (or more!) type of sippy cup for their child.

I found this impossible to believe. How could it be possible for a kid not to figure out how to get liquid from a cup specifically designed to allow a child to do that?

Well, fatherhood opened my eyes to how entirely possible this scenario is!

Before FM found the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup for our son after scouring online mommy groups, forums, and websites, we tried at least three other cups that I can recall.

I don’t remember the exact price of each one, but if you use $10 as a typical price for a sippy cup, we would have spent and ultimately wasted at least $30 on cups our son refused and/or was incapable of using before we found this option.

It’s not much, but it’s also $30 that could have been used on other things like our kids’ RESP, our van loan, or our mortgage. Every cent on those things counts, after all!

Once we discovered the Munchkin option, we didn’t have to try another cup again. Our son has since moved on top “big boy cups”, but we went straight to it for our daughter when she was ready to start drinking water. Sure enough, she took to it immediately.

So what made this specific cup work when so many others didn’t?

First, the weighted straw makes it possible for the child to get a swig of their pop (kidding!) water no matter what bizarre angle they’re holding the bottle at.

Second, on the bizarre angle thing again, is that it stays completely sealed. There is next to no leakage when compared to the other options that we had tried.

Third, the straw is small and tight enough that it releases a manageable amount of liquid as opposed to some of the other cups that made it look like our son was trying to drink from a fire hose.

Finally, and particularly relevant to the theme of this blog, it’s fairly inexpensive. As I write this post, it’s just $6.99 on Amazon.ca.

My only complaint/warning to other parents relates to the cleaning brush that comes with it. As I noted above, the straw is fairly tight. While that’s a benefit to the potential mess the kid using it could make, it does make it rather difficult to clean the inner parts of the straw, since the brush can get stuck. In one instance for us, the wire and bristle piece disconnected from the stem of the brush and became lodged in the straw. Thankfully we noticed it and removed the piece before our son used the cup again, which could have potentially ended up with that piece in his mouth, or worse, being swallowed

Once we discovered this cup, we stuck with it. We had three for our son – one for home, one for daycare, and one for any travels we did. We’ve got one for our daughter at the moment, but will definitely be picking up more once she heads to daycare too.

So there you have it, my first blatant product recommendation since starting this blog more than four months ago.

I’ve added this to my Resources page, which I’ll continue to update as I post more of these reviews of tried and tested baby gear.

Have you had challenges finding the right sippy cup for your kid? Have you used the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi-Straw Sippy Cup for your child? How did you find it performed for you?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Also remember to check out the info below on our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

 

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Baked Cabbage Roll Skillet Supper

I planned on making this on Thursday night, but things got derailed. I’ll be making it for dinner tonight and will update this section with a brief review as soon as I can after we eat it.

UPDATE: We had this on Saturday and really enjoyed it! It’s basically cabbage rolls, except instead of the roll being the starting point of your meal, you jump straight to the dish being ready to eat with no cutting required. The recipe is pretty straight forward and definitely cost-effective, both big plusses in our house. The end result was delicious and we had plenty of leftovers for lunch on Sunday. There is a fair bit of prep involved and attention required though, so it loses some points there. I chopped the cabbage and onions the night before to speed things up at cooking time, but had to park myself in front of the stove for the bulk of the cooking instead of being able to play with the kids.

Final verdict: file it in the keeper binder!

This week’s selection: Margherita Penne

Frugal Finds – A Bargain on a Big Boy Bed

There was a lot of excitement in our house last week when our son looked out our front window and saw the delivery truck pull up to our house. Inside was a mattress that will one day serve as his “big boy bed”, as he likes to call it.

Our son is nearly two and a half, so FM an I have been preparing ourselves to encounter a major milestone for a toddler for a while now.

So far he hasn’t made even the slightest of attempts to escape his crib. But after he successfully made it through the night in a regular bed when we stayed with family over the holidays (which he was extremely excited about), we decided a few weeks ago that we may as well keep an eye out for something to move him into once he inevitably decides crib rails are no longer a deterrent.

During the annual ‘Boxing Day/Week Blowout’ season we all endure as consumers, we decided to head over to a store not far from our house to get a sense of what type of mattress he (aka FM and I, since we’ll likely end up spending some time with him on it over the years) wanted and what kind of dollar figure we would need to expect to pay.

We were completely upfront with the salesman (who barely allowed us to get five feet into the building before descending upon us) that we weren’t looking to purchase anything and just wanted to test out some beds and get a sense on pricing.

Once we made it into the actual showroom area, sticker shock set in almost immediately. I had completely forgotten how bloody expensive mattresses are!

We spent about 30 minutes testing out a variety of beds. And by “testing”, I mean FM and I taking turns laying down and trying to convince our son to pretend to sleep next to us rather than jump up and down like he was on a trampoline.

Most of the price tags made us either gasp or laugh. Anything that we liked was in the $1,000 and above category, which was way beyond what we were willing to spend. We knew from reviewing advertisements through the Flipp app that we could easily find something of the quality we wanted for about 40% lower than that.

Of course, the salesman couldn’t let us go without a fight. He does have a living to make after all. He asked if he could check the store’s internal system to see if they had a better price available on a couple of the beds we seemed to like.

Truth be told, he was actually very respectful of the fact that we were just there to browse and didn’t want any kind of heavy sales push put on us, so we decided to hear him out.

He took us over to his desk and started punching in model names and numbers. Sure enough, the first two beds we found comfortable remained way out of our price range, even with some substantial discounts available.

The third bed came back at just under $750, which was the absolute maximum budget we had set for this purchase. With this being the first store that we visited, we weren’t swayed at all – we wanted to continue shopping around to get the best deal we possibly could, and this just didn’t feel like it.

We were about to say our thank yous and goodbyes when the salesman got all excited and insisted that he show me something on the screen.

He explained that an order of the very same mattress had been cancelled by a customer at the last second and the company’s nearest warehouse was stuck with a mattress they needed to move out as soon as possible.

The company operates on a just-in-time delivery model. They take the order and a deposit from the customer, place an order for the bed with the manufacturer, receive it at their warehouse a few days later, and ship it out to the customer as soon as they possibly can. This sales model means that they don’t have a lot of warehouse space of their own and don’t want product sitting around.

In situations like the cancellation the salesman discovered, they tend to discount the mattress to get it out the door right away.

In this case it meant that the bed could be ours for $555 plus tax, for a total of just over $625. That’s 45% off the sticker price!

This changed our tune to be sure, but FM still wasn’t convinced. It didn’t change the fact that we were still at the first store we had visited, we had committed to doing research and legwork before making this expensive of a purchase, and we weren’t 100% ready to move our son out of his crib since he hasn’t made an effort to escape it himself.

The salesman came up with a solution for us: put down a fully refundable $100 deposit to hold the mattress, take a couple of weeks to do our research, and make a decision on whether or not we wanted to go ahead.

So that’s what we did.

With a bed on hold, we spent many of our evenings over the following week doing more research. We also had a lot of conversations about when our son would move into the bed and what we’d do with it in the meantime if we did go ahead and finalize the purchase of the one we had on hold.

In the end, we decided we couldn’t turn down the deal we discovered that first day of looking since no other similar mattresses could meet that price.

Listen, I get it. To many of you, spending over $600 on a bed for a toddler isn’t much of a bargain. But to us, this is still a frugal purchase. That’s because to us, being frugal means making the most of our money by making purchases that we believe get us the best bang for our buck over the long-term.

We don’t view this as buying a bed for a toddler. It’s buying a bed that should last toddler through his pre-school, grade-school, and eventually teenage years.

Spending this much now and not having to spend it again for 15 years is a much better option to us than spending $300 on cheaper mattresses that wear out every 5 years, or buying a bed shaped like a car that our son probably won’t want to be sleeping on in his teenage years.

We also came up with what was a pretty obvious solution for “storing” the mattress until it was time to retire our son’s crib.

Our daughter is still in our room with us, so the mattress will go into her future bedroom for the time being. Once she moves over there, the new mattress will either stay in her room for us to crash on in the likely event that she needs some assistance in getting comfortable in her new surroundings, or it will go to our son’s room for him to sleep on if he decides to make the great escape from his current sleeping quarters.

In the end, we’re really pleased with the end result of our research and shopping efforts and we’re looking forward to making our son’s transition from crib to big boy bed as seamless as possible when that day finally arrives.

How do you handle higher-priced purchases like a mattress? Do you research it like crazy or jump on the first deal you think is worthwhile?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, sending an email to frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Also remember to check out the info below on our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project!

Until next Saturday, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

Last week’s recipe: Chicken and Onion Tagine.

I found the dish to be really tasty, but it failed from a simplicity perspective. FM is an admittedly picky eater and if it’s something outside her usual comfort zone, she really needs to be in the mood to try something new. That wasn’t the case last Saturday night when I made the dish, which called for curry as a key ingredient – something FM isn’t a huge fan of and wasn’t in the mood for. I had to modify my cooking plans, basically creating two separate versions (one with curry, one without) to make sure we could each enjoy our meal. We’ve done this countless times in the past, but with kids to tend to now, it isn’t feasible to be doing this on a regular basis. The final verdict on this dish: send it to the recycle bin.

This week’s selection: Baked Cabbage Roll Skillet.

Our Random Pile o’ Recipes Reduction Project

I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember.

My enjoyment of it really took off when I moved into a house with a bunch of roommates in university. I got tired of eating the same cheap, unhealthy junk like a student tends to do, so I taught myself how to make some fairly basic, but delicious meals on the stereotypically slim budget a student tends to survive off of.

Over the years I’ve learned to make a wider variety of meals and really enjoy testing out new things anytime I have a chance.

Related Article: A Frugal Family Christmas Dinner

I’m not a top-flight chef by any means. The food I like to make now that I’m (theoretically) all grown up still isn’t not overly fancy. They’re just nice, simple, homemade meals for FM and the kids and I to enjoy.

good day in the kitchen tweet - 06jan19

I love the whole process of meal-making. Selecting the recipe. Building the list of groceries required to make it. Buying the ingredients. Going through the steps of preparing it. The smells as the food cooks. And 99.9% of the time (I’ve had a couple of duds along the way), I enjoy the end result that we get to eat together as a family.

FM often tells me that she’s glad she ended up with someone who enjoys cooking as much as I do, otherwise she may have ended up with scurvy due to her lack of interest in food as anything more than a source of energy to get through the day. She figures she’d just eat the same things all day everyday if left to her own devices!

One of my favourite things about being the primary cook in our collective kitchen is still trying out new recipes.

For years I’ve been pulling recipes that interested me from magazines and printing them from websites as I came across them.

And this is what’s happened with them:

Recipe Pile and Cookbooks

If I had to guess, I’d say there’s probably 200 or more recipes accumulated in that pile. Some of them have been tried and enjoyed, but most got pulled from the magazine or printed from the website and just added to the pile.

Ever since our son came along, my creativity in the kitchen has waned somewhat. Cooking is just one of those things that has received less attention since I became a parent and in recent months, our dinner options have really started to show it.

We still eat the majority of our meals made from fresh ingredients, but the menu is fairly repetitive. I generally draw from a fairly short list of options that require minimal preparation and those dishes are used in a pretty frequent rotation.

Our son doesn’t seem to care about the repetition and our daughter isn’t even at the stage of eating the same stuff as us, but FM and I have found ourselves increasingly uninspired by the meals we build our grocery list around each week.

After opening the recipe cupboard a few weeks before the holidays, FM asked that we do something about it as part of an overall effort we’re putting into decluttering our home.

Rather than simply tossing the pile in the recycle bin, I figured we can kill two birds with one stone: try out some of those recipes and expand our meal options while also whittling down and organizing the crazy pile of paper that we’ve amassed.

To make things interesting, we’re going to try those recipes completely at random!

Each week, I’m going to pull a page from the pile (without peeking at it first), add the ingredients to our weekly grocery list, and make whatever dish I find on the page one night that week.

If we like really like it, it will get filed into a binder for use again in the future and added to our regular meal carousel of meal options. If it’s just ok or we completely dislike it, then into the recycling bin it goes!

Earlier, I had mentioned that a reason for our menu becoming as exciting as watching paint dry is that we don’t have as much time as we used to now that we’re parents.

While this remains true in 2019, fortunately for us, our kids are on a much more predictable sleep schedule than when there’s a newborn in the house. They both go to bed at the same time, which leaves FM and I with a couple of hours to ourselves each night before we go to bed.

FM and I have both acknowledged that we’ve been pretty horribly guilty of not making great use of that time in recent months (damn you, Netflix!). So my plan for accomplishing this goal of returning to a more creative cooking environment is to prep ingredients for the next night’s meal during some of those free minutes.

Each week, I’ll include the random recipe we selected at the bottom of my post and give a very brief review of the one we tried the week prior.

I’ve also set up a Recipes page on the website, where I’ll post any of the dishes we think others might enjoy.

So here goes nothing!

This week’s recipe: Chicken & Onion Tagine.

Until next week, thanks for checking out frugalfathering.com!

Frugal Father

2019 Goals and Objectives

Last week I wrote about the progress I made on my financial goals in my 2018 Annual Review post.

Today’s blog is a look ahead at what I’m hoping to accomplish with my personal and family finances in 2019.

To recap, each December I set aside some time to conduct an Annual Review. I take a look back at the progress that I made in achieving my goals and objectives in the year that was, then develop a (mostly) new set for the coming year.

I consistently focus my attention on five categories: Family, Finances, Health, Personal, and Professional.

For each category, I write down as many things I can think of as possible, then whittle down the list by applying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely/Time Bound) criteria to each them. The ones that best meet each of those criteria make the short-list, which I then rank in order of priority. What I end up with is a list of five goals in each category that I aim to achieve over the course of the year.

The focus of this blog, of course, is largely dedicated to the financial aspects of parenthood, so that’s the only category I’m going to go into any detail on today. You may find the occasional reference to the other categories’ goals and objectives on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram though.

So without further ado, here’s what I’m aiming to achieve in 2019!

  1. Contribute $5,000 to the kids’ RESP

This is a repeat of one of last year’s goals.

FM and I are firm believers in the value of an education and we want to do our part to ensure our kids have the opportunity to pursue college or university studies in the future.

For parents unfamiliar with RESPs (if that’s you, I’d strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Saving for School) , the Canadian government offers very generous grants as an incentive for saving for a child’s post-secondary education. 20% of annual contributions to an eligible RESP are matched to a maximum of $500 per child.

That’s an automatic 20% return on your money, which is pretty much unheard of!

As frugal parents looking to make the most of our money, maximizing the government grants became an absolute no-brainer financial priority the moment we entered parenthood. We intend to max-out the grants again in 2019.

 

  1. Increase our mortgage prepayments by $25 per bi-weekly payment

Our mortgage is the single biggest obstacle standing between us and making substantial progress towards financial independence. FM and I are both extremely debt-averse. A few years back once we were both established in our careers, we decided to make it a priority to pay down our mortgage as quickly as possible by taking advantage of the prepayment options available through our mortgage holder.

In 2018, we paid the maximum of 25% on top of our regular accelerated bi-weekly payments, plus another $125 in lump sum payments on the principle every two weeks.

This year we’re aiming to increase that by another $25 per bi-weekly payment, which works out to an additional $650 over the course of the year.

I have already contacted our bank and had them make the increase. If my annual cash flow forecast is accurate, we should have no problem keeping that up for the entire year. It’s definitely helpful that FM will be heading back to work after her maternity leave ends in just a few short months and earning substantially higher income than her employment insurance payments currently provide.

  1. Make “round-up bonus debt payoffs” with each PCMC billing cycle.

This is an idea I got after listening to Episode #286 of the aforementioned Chris Guillebeau’s inspiring Side Hustle School podcast. In it, the subject of the episode had developed an app to that rounded up the “spare change” from his purchases and put that money towards his student debt.

I’m going to try something similar this year, albeit through a manual process I’ll be doing myself at the end of each billing cycle for the joint credit FM and I use for our family spending.

The plan is to round each purchase up to the nearest $5 and put the sum towards the loan on our van each month. Let’s say our weekly grocery bill comes to $106.70. I’ll round that up to $110 and put the $3.30 towards the van loan. I’ll do this with each purchase that appears on the statement.

A quick analysis of a few months of bills from last year tells me that we’ll be putting an extra $150-$200 per month towards paying off the van.

  1. Use unplanned income to pay off our van loan (on the family side) or to invest (on the personal side)

When I develop our annual cash flow forecasts, the only income I factor into the projection is what we know for certain we can expect. For 2019, this means my paycheque and FM’s maternity leave employment insurance payments and her paycheque when she returns to work in a few months.

But what about money coming in that we aren’t necessarily expecting and/or can’t be accurately predicted?

I’m talking about things like mileage claims I make through work when I need to take my personal vehicle on company business, returning empties to the Beer Store, Paypal cash I earn through Swagbucks, cashback through Checkout 51 or my Tangerine Mastercard, and the like.

In the past, those items would just go into our bank account and help fund our normal day-to-day expenses. This year though, we’re going to give that money a more specific purpose by using it to pay down our loan on the van and augment our retirement savings and investments.

I’m very interested to see just how much these little top ups will add up to by the end of the year!

  1. Make automatic monthly contributions to my TFSA and RRSP

FM is on maternity leave until around the end of April, so our adult allowances will remain fairly low until a regular paycheque starts coming in again.

Because of the reduced income that comes with being on maternity leave, we hit the pause button on the automated retirement savings contributions for much of last year. Instead, we relied on making lump sum deposits if/when the money was available.

As someone who like simplicity, predictability, and automation with his finances, I didn’t like that approach one bit. I found that I was much looser with my spending because my bank balance gave me the illusion that I had more money to spend than I normally would have. The end result was a massive miss on one of my financial goals from last year.

This year, I’ll be returning to automated payments immediately. My TFSA and RRSP both currently reside with Tangerine (sign up for a Tangerine account with my Orange Key number 17131375S1 and get $50 for free!) in a series of investment funds and they have an incredibly simple system to set up those automated transfers through. The cash flow forecast I created for my personal account shows that I’ll be able to make the minimum required deposit on a monthly basis without any issues.

It may not be as much money as I’ve put aside in the past, but such is life with kids. The important thing is to get back on the regular schedule and let compounding do its thing!

So there you have it, my financial goals and objectives for 2019.

In keeping with the spirit of accountability that I want this blog to bring me, I’ll be posting quarterly updates on my progress over the course of the year. My final post of the year will once again feature an annual review that outlines my successes, failures, and progress in achieving those goals.

In the meantime, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for regular updates on my frugal adventures in shopping, investing, saving, and affordable family fun. You can also get in touch by emailing me at frugalfatherblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another new post next Saturday!

Frugal Father

2018 Annual Review

Back in October, I posted an article outlining my financial goals and objectives for 2018. In that article I committed to posting a year-end wrap-up outlining my successes, failures, and progress in achieving those goals with my final post of 2018.

And since today is the final Saturday of 2018, it’s time for that review.

The primary reason that I committed myself to doing this was to establish and maintain an added layer of accountability I want this blog to bring to my management of my personal and family finances.

As I outlined in the October post, I follow a process similar to that of one of my favourite writers, Chris Guillebeau (author of the blog The Art of Non-Conformity, books like The $100 Start Up and Side Hustle, and host of the podcast Side Hustle School).

While reading Chris’ blog many years ago, I learned about his process of conducting an annual review and making plans for the coming year. I started loosely following a similar process, taking a few hours over the course of a couple of weeks in December to review how the outgoing year had gone and make plans for the year ahead.

Over the years I’ve refined my version of this process and have arrived at five categories of goals and objectives that I focus my attention on: Family, Finances, Health, Personal, and Professional.

Today’s post is a look back on 2018, while next week’s post will focus on what I hope to achieve in 2019. Since the focus of this website is intended to largely be on the financial impacts we encounter as parents, I’m only going to focus on that category in these posts.

To recap, my goals for 2018 were as follows:

  1. Contribute $2,500 to each child’s RESP.
  2. Increase my RRSP contributions by 10%.
  3. Put $2,000 in my TFSA.
  4. Maintain our mortgage prepayment plan.
  5. Reduce discretionary spending by 10% (both personal and family).

So how did I do? All told, not bad at all!

  1. Contribute $2,500 to each child’s RESP. ACHIEVED!

The Canadian government offers very generous grants as an incentive for saving for a child’s post-secondary education. 20% of annual contributions to an eligible RESP are matched to a maximum of $500 per child.

If you can show me another investment that will earn an automatic 20% return, I’d love to hear about it!

FM and I are firm believers in the value of an education and we want to do our part to ensure our kids have the opportunity to pursue college or university studies in the future. So maximizing the government grants became an absolute no-brainer financial priority the moment we entered parenthood.

This year we were able to achieve our goal of getting the maximum amount into the Family RESP account I set up, turning our $5,000 contribution into a $6,000 balance toward our kids’ continued educations.

You’re welcome children!

Aside: if you’re a parent and you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of RESPs, Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Saving for School is a great (and very affordable) resource!

  1. Increase my RRSP contributions by 10%. FAILED

Last year I managed to get $5,200 into my RRSP, so this year’s target was $5,720.

When FM went on maternity leave in April, we hit the pause button on our usual automated RRSP contributions. The intent was to ride out the year, push as much as we could into our high-interest savings account, and make lump sum deposits into each of our RRSPs from that balance at the year if we could.

Unfortunately, we ran into some rather large, completely unexpected expenses this year (mat-leaves are a great time for those, right?) and I ended up contributing less than $1,000.

In hindsight, this was a poorly thought-out goal. At the time I set it, I must have thought it was achievable, otherwise I wouldn’t have included it. That, or my math was simply horrendous and/or not double-checked, which is entirely possible.

Because we also reduced our adult allowances to account for the lower income inherent to maternity leaves, I would have been hard-pressed to match last year’s contributions, let alone increase them by 10%, even without the unexpected expenses we encountered this year. Lesson learned.

  1. Put $2,000 in my TFSA. ACHIEVED!

While I typically prioritize RRSP contributions in an effort to use up all of the remaining available space, when it became apparent that the RRSP contribution goal was unattainable, I focused my attention on achieving this objective rather than failing at both. This shift in my attention allowed me to achieve this goal of contributing $2,000 back in September, though I didn’t get anything more than that set aside.

  1. Maintain our mortgage prepayment plan. ACHIEVED!

We’ve been as aggressive as we can afford to be in paying off our mortgage since it’s the single biggest obstacle in our pursuit of financial independence.

In 2017, we paid the maximum of 25% on top of our regular accelerated bi-weekly payments, plus another $100 in lump sum payments on the principle every two weeks.

Not only did we maintain that pace in 2018, but we upped the lump sum payments on the principle by another $25 per bi-weekly payment!

  1. Reduce discretionary spending by 10% (both personal and joint/family). ACHIEVED on the personal side, FAILED on the family side.

“Kids are expensive” is part of the tagline of this blog for a reason. I’m constantly looking for ways to cut down on our costs, but even the best of efforts and intentions couldn’t get the bills down this year on the family spending end of things. In the end our spending went up very marginally (<2%), which is something of a feat in and of itself, considering we had a second child to tend to for the majority of the year. But the goal was a 10% reduction, and we didn’t come close to that, so we got a failing grade.

On the plus side, I did manage to keep the spending of my adult allowance in check this year, coming in at nearly $300 less per month than I had in 2017. I attribute this largely to the fact that with two kids occupying most of my non-working waking hours, I simply didn’t have an opportunity to spend this year. I missed both my usual May long-weekend fishing trip, and my annual November sports trip with my buddies this year in order to be at home with FM and the kids. I also didn’t spend a lot of time – and therefore money – on my hobby of collecting hockey memorabilia and cards (I’m an overgrown child, I know). Add those things up and a significant decrease in spending was a sure thing.

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So when I tally it up at the end of the year, I achieved 3.5 out of my five goals and objectives. When I consider how much things can change over the course of twelve months and how unpredictable parenthood/adulthood/life-in-general can be, I’m quite pleased with this achievement.

I’ve already established what I plan to tackle in 2019 in each of the five categories that I focus on. Next Saturday, I’ll post my five financial goals and objectives for the year.

Do you set specific goals (financial or otherwise) for yourself each year? How did you do in 2018? And what about conducting an annual review – is that something you do as well?

Let me know by posting a comment, shooting me an email at frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or by connecting on social media on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Until next week, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

A Frugal Family Christmas Dinner

One of my favourite parts of the holiday season is the delicious food that I get to eat when doing the rounds of the various family events that FM and I attend – now with kids in tow.

My preference for holiday meals is pretty straightforward. My favourite dishes are the traditional staples of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, carrots, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a seasonal desert.

Lucky for me, those are available at pretty much every one of the three or four dinners we end up attending each holiday season! And somehow, I never get tired of eating those things and the piles of leftovers that usually come with them.

Though we’ve never hosted a Christmas dinner for our extended family, it’s something I would love to do in the future.

For years, the numbers nerd in me has been curious about the costs of putting together such a meal (usually for 8 adults).

I felt like much of what’s included in the typical holiday meal that I enjoy is actually pretty affordable. But that was really just anecdotal opinion based on what I recalled seeing in the grocery store, not on any documented evidence.

So this week, I did some digging to prepare myself for what I’m up against when FM and I finally take our turn at providing the meal.

The results really aren’t all that bad.

Based on the information in this week’s grocery store flyers, I’ve concluded that by using a little price-matching effort and ingenuity, I could comfortably create my favourite holiday meal for myself and seven others for just $29.48!

That works out to only $3.69 per person, and doesn’t account for the fact that I’d likely end up with leftovers for at least a couple of meals.

For those interested in knowing how it can be accomplished at such a relatively low cost, here’s a series of recipes I’d follow (loosely/with modifications), along with the shopping list of ingredients to pull them off.

Dish Ingredients Price
Turkey stuffed with lemon, onions, and rosemary 1 6 kg. (13 lb.) Turkey $15 (Wal-Mart)
1 lemon $0.99 (Zehrs)
2 medium onions $0.30 ($1.47 for a 3 lb. bag of 10 onions at Wal-Mart)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary $0.60 ($1.97 for a package of 10 at No Frills)
Mashed Potatoes 12 medium potatoes $0.60 ($1.97 for a 10 lb. bag of ~40 potatoes at No Frills)
2 tablespoons (~30g) cream cheese $0.30 ($2.47 for a 250 g package at Wal-Mart)
2 tablespoons (~30g) margarine $0.06 ($0.94 for a 454 g package at Wal-Mart)
1/2 cup (0.12 L) of milk $0.18 ($5.99 for 4L at Wal-Mart)
Steamed Carrots 3 pounds $1.47 (Wal-Mart)
Stuffing 2 boxes $1.74 ($0.87 per box at Wal-Mart)
Gravy 2 packets $1.98 ($0.99 at Fresh Co., price matched at Wal-Mart)
Cranberry Sauce 1 can $1.27 (Wal-Mart)
Candy Cane Ice Cream 1 carton $4.99 (No Frills)

TOTAL GROCERY BILL  

$42.23

TOTAL MEAL COST  

$29.48

PER PERSON MEAL COST  

$3.69

And there you have it: a nice, big, delicious meal for eight people for just $3.69 a head! Aside form the turkey and the Candy Cane Ice Cream for desert (a childhood favourite that has been a must-have on my Christmas food list for decades), everything else is incredibly cheap. Those two items alone account for more than half of the meal cost, but even then, they’re not breaking the bank.

Writing this article and creating the menu above has me even more excited to one day host a big holiday meal for our family. In fact, it’s already led to discussions with FM about when we might be doing just that!

What’s your favourite holiday meal? How do you keep costs in line when you’re doing the cooking? Let me know by getting in touch by leaving a comment, emailing me at frugalfatherblog@gmail.com, or connecting on social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

This will be my last post before Christmas, so I want to wish you and yours a very happy holiday as well. I hope that it’s filled with great people, good times, and delicious food and drink!

Until next week, thanks for reading!

Frugal Father