Keeping the house, the kids and the hubby without breaking the bank, the earth, the people I love, or myself.

Cutting Your Family's Grocery Bill - Part 5

Yes, there are a few more things you can do.

Take advantage of rewards programs
I believe judicious application of rewards programs is the best course. With a bit of thought, you can decide if the rewards program is worth it or not. Usually incentives are introduced regularly to help you earn more rewards, however that usually means you must make certain purchases. Do not purchase items you will not use before they expire. Do not purchase items that are priced higher than elsewhere (unless the reward earned would justify the added expense). Do not purchase items you do not use. Some stores have built-in rewards that include sale prices and earned bonuses for nothing more than showing the card when you check out. I strongly advise that you apply all other principles before delving into rewards programs.

Purchase large quantities of low-priced items you regularly use
When the meats your family uses most frequently go on sale, purchase up to a 3-month supply. You will need storage for these and deep freezers are a good investment. Our family eats mostly chicken breast for meat however the price in Canada is steep. On a regular basis, chicken breast starts at $6.00 a pound. When it's available for $1.99 a pound, I purchase several month's worth and store them in my deep freezer.

Any other grocery staples that you regularly use can be purchased in large quantities to take advantage of sales. Milk can be frozen. Dry goods generally do not present a problem stored properly.

Check the unit price
If you're accustomed to buying convenience foods or convenience sizes, you'll find greater savings in purchasing family-sized items in their stead. Check the shelf tags as these will show how much you're paying per ounce, pound, or 100-grams. Quite often you're paying 100% more for a single-serve than you will for a family sized item. You can store extras in the fridge or freezer if it's more than you can use at once.

Purchase reduced items and freeze or use immediately
Fruit, vegetables, breads, and even meats are reduced for clearance near their best-by date. These dates often give some lee-way for home use and are still good even by their sell-by date. If you cannot immediately use the produce, clean, chop and freeze it. Breads and meats can go directly into the freezer.

If coupons are available for your regularly purchased items, use them! Try to combine the coupon with a sale for greater savings. Consider whether the coupon for the name-brand product will offer greater savings than the store-brand product available. I haven't found many store-brands that I didn't like and often they are a much better value than the name brand is even with a coupon. For coupons to really work for you, you need to be judicious in their use. Do not purchase items you normally wouldn't simply because you have a coupon. That is not a savings for you. Full-value coupons or free offer coupons afford you the opportunity to try out a new product without having to purchase it. When it comes to items you would not normally purchase, only use a full-value coupon.

Purchase a deep freezer
In order to stock up on sale items, you need to have the storage. Deep freezers are a very economical way to stretch your grocery dollar. They are often available in the classifieds, on kijiji or craigslist, and I've often seen them on freecycle.

In my final posting on this topic, I'll review all the tips I've posted.


Heartland Forest, Niagara Falls, Ontario

This is the entry to the two-and-a-half mile trail system of the Heartland Forest. There is signage along the way that will educate and inform you about the various flora and fauna of this incredible Carolinian Forest.

Before you even enter the Forest, you'll see two large and lovely butterfly gardens. I saw a giant swallowtail butterfly, which I was unable to photograph. I saw others, too, but I couldn't tell you what they were other than pretty.

Some of that incredible Carolinian Forest.

This is the sign at the parking area. All of the Heartland Forest is wheelchair accessible.

The cabin.

She's trying to see the bear in there. I can see it. Many projects are in progress at the Heartland Forest.

A patch of jewel Weed. The flowers of these are orange and reddish.
Remember what I said about Jewel Weed in an earlier post?

It often grows near Poison Ivy and here is the Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy doesn't have a set of rules for easy identification. Sometimes its leaves are smooth-edged, and sometimes they're toothed. Just remember that old adage from your childhood camping days and honour it:
"Leaves of three, leave them be!"

Hiking is always an adventure. There is always a series of discoveries to be made.
Today, my daughter found this wonderful Hawk feather. How cool is that?

RJ found one of those threatened Fowler's Toads. I'm really glad I heard its mating call found at that link before hearing it in person. That would totally freak me out!
See the light line going down the center of its back and the dark spots on either side? Those, along with the elongate parotid glands which contact its prominent cranial crests are identifying features of Fowler's Toads. (The glands look like raised bumps behind the second set of black spots just behind the toad's head.)

I discovered a Mayapple with fruit:
I have rarely seen a Mayapple fruit. They are edible, however the skins and seeds are poisonous. The Mayapple is currently under investigation as a possible cancer fighter.

Roy discovered an adult Fowler's Toad:
Can you see it against the log? You may need to click on the picture to view it in more detail.

Here it is:

A little bit of the more-than two miles of trails in the Heartland Forest. Remember, it is all wheelchair accessible.

We didn't get to see the whole Hearland Forest as I did not realize that it was part of a protected wetland. The mosquitos were HORRIBLE! We were unprepared for the nasty buggies and we were all being eaten alive. So we ran out of the forest and spent some time exploring the butterfly gardens and ongoing construction outside of the Forest entry.

They do have a learning fish & frog pond in progress. Some people were already exploring its inhabitants with nets, but after the bug attack in the forest we did not want to be near a water source!

You can learn a lot more about the Heartland Forest at its website. There are also easy to follow directions. It's only a couple miles from downtown Niagara Falls. The Heartland Forest was rescued from designation for industrial development.

Upon entry to the unpave, gravel road that goes to the Heartland Forest, you can see all the destruction of habitat on the opposite side of the street. It was heartbreaking and very poignant to view after having visited the forest itself.

Judging from the regularly-spaced fireplugs along the entry road, it seems that Industrial Park will probably be complete in the next couple of years. Say goodbye to all that habitat (except for the protected Heartland Forest).

If you plan on visiting during warm weather, be prepared for the mosquitoes so you can enjoy the whole experience without having to run screaming from the bloodsuckers!


Nickel Beach, Port Colborne, Ontario

Before heading out to beaches, pick more than one in an area to visit just in case one is over crowded or yucky in other ways. Check water safety here: and even though they list Lake Ontario beaches, be aware that Lake Ontario smells very very bad in the summer. We won't swim in it. Smells like rotting fish and algae. They test the water for e. coli, but who knows what else is in it when it lets off that kind of funk!

We went to Lake Erie:
Arrival at Nickel Beach

You've got to park outside the beach and park area unless you wish to pay $13 on weekdays or $18 on weekends for the pleasure of parking on the beach. If you're pulling a boat, beach parking is free. If you park outside the park when you first arrive and wait til after 4 pm, you'll only have to pay $5 to drive onto the beach. It's not a bad idea to do it this way if you plan to swim for 8 hours or so like we did.

Are you wondering about that sign next to the boys up there?
I'm not sure if having "PROTECTING THIS THREATEN SPECIES" in quotation marks means the members of the above-captioned Ministry march out on this beach and stomp on toads or what. The use of quotation marks for emphasis makes me crazy. By the way, what is a threaten species? You can learn more about Fowler's Toad here. (Sheez, you would think they'd get the name about we all chip in so they can hire a proofreader?)

The beach looks lovely. The sand is soft and warm under our feet.

Immediately after picking out our spot, RJ set up this scene. Did he play with it? No. That was it. Just the scene.

We figured out that sitting right where the waves are crashing is FUN! By the way, the water is pristinely clear and quite shallow. No undertow this day. When the depth is to your waist, you can still see the bottom! It was quite nice and clean. The beach also has a canteen and washrooms.

Sissy (my daughter's nickname) sorts seashells by the seashore.
She learned later that there were far more of the spiral-type shells she was sorting for in the dry sand on the beach than in the wet sand of the shoreline. All the white stuff on the ground in front of her is crushed shells. Not fun to walk on. Go around those.

We'd taken along a charcoal grill and barbecued on the beach. We packed fruits and veggies and PBJs because we had both lunch and dinner while we were out. Sadly, the beach closed at 8:00PM, otherwise we would have stayed later and roasted some marshmallows (or as my younger kids call them "hushmellows." I find the term appropriate.)

As the day winds down, the boats leave and the Eastern sky reflects the colours of the sunset.

And what a sunset it was, too!

By the way, Nickel Beach was our second choice. First we arrived at Humberstone Beach (about 15 minutes away from Nickel.) As we neared the beach, a nasty, dank, rotting funk hit our noses. At the beach, we saw what it was:
It is slimy, streaked in red and yellow, and very malodourous. There was no way we were stepping in that funk! It looks like the shoreline is bleeding into the sand. Who knows what kinds of bacteria cause that colouring.

Mind, it looked very promising going in:

Across the street is Humberstone Centennial Park:
It is a 46-acre park with volleyball nets, baseballs diamonds, playgrounds, picnic tables and much more. On another day, we'll stay and visit. On this one, we jumped in the car and headed to Nickel Beach where we were not disappointed!


Morning Star Mills, St. Catharines, Ontario

Want to get away from the tourist driven areas of Niagara Falls but want to enjoy the beauty of nature and waterfalls along with a slice of history? Go to Morningstar Mills where you can not only step back in time to see a working flour mill, blacksmith, and a home from the period, but you can also hike along the escarpment and even down into a gorge to view the lovely DeCew Falls or swim in the pools along the stream. What a great day out with the family!

As always, click on any picture to see more detail. Then use your browsers "Back" button to return to this page.

It's a real, working grist mill from the 1800's -- you can even take your corn or wheat to them to be stone ground:

This is the home of the original owners:
If you visit when the mill and home are open to tourists (free) you'll see period furniture in the home and all the workings of the mill. Also there's a blacksmith shop and a real blacksmith inside! We were so fascinated by everything we saw today that we didn't snap any photos inside! Oh well, you'll have to go and discover them all for yourself.

Once you're done with the mill, smithie, and house, continue walking past the mill along the escarpment. There is a gentle path all along the escarpment for those who would like to take in the natural beauty without risking a fall or heart attack.

I'm not falling behind! I'm taking pictures!

When hiking, one should always remember to wear their hiking shoes. Like these:

(They are cute!)

A view from the top of escarpment looking down into the gorge (see the stream?):

For those who are more adventurous and don't have visions of rescue teams attempting to haul them up 200 feet of gorge, you can head down the quick way:

He's nine and he's going down:
(Yes, she removed those shoes before climbing down this thing. No, I did not brave it.)

And what will they find at the bottom?

The lower falls:

A really cool swimming hole where the water is calmed:

And there's a rope swing too:

Yes, I think he's part monkey, too.

The older kids explored farther upstream:

Me, well, I took pictures of all the really cool stuff everywhere:

The top of DeCew Falls:

Some critter's home:

Funky fungus that looks like coral:
A patch of jewel weed:
Jewel weed is often found growing near poison ivy. The leaves and stems are a natural cure for poison ivy rash. Good to know!

The jewel weed flowers are lovely:

Another funky fungus shaped like a vessel of some sort:
Ky discovers a fallen bird's nest:

Purple frilly flowers:

Funky caterpillar:

Top of Decew Falls and the lower falls in the distance:

Tiny, pink, perfect flowers:
Hubby takes artistic shots (many of the photos are his):

And it's always pleasant to find a berry patch full of ripe black berries (my favourite!)

My daughter and I picking berries for everyone:

This is one of our favourite places in the Niagara Region. It's always free. No cost for parking, either! (What is it -- a second mortgage now to park by THE Niagara Falls?) The mill does not operate all the time, but follow the link at the top of this post for more information. The next weekend the mill will be operating is October 11 and 12 this year. We love hiking the trail and swimming in the swimming hole. It's a great day out!



About This Blog

Saving money. Saving graces. Raising children, husbands and, sometimes, cats. Laughing. Living. Thinking. Doing. Life in the Niagara Region of Ontario.

About Me

I am a happily married woman with four children and various cats and kittens (fosters). I love to read and my favourite authors are George RR Martin, Thomas Hardy, Raymond Carver, PD James, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling, and Margaret Atwood. I know there are only three women in that list (and none of them American), so if you'd like to suggest some I'm willing to give them a shot! And yes, I am an American living in Canada. (Hence the nick -- CannedAm.) I like it here. There are things about the states that I miss, but my love is here and this country has things to offer that my own does not. Things that make my quality of life much better than it ever was in Ohio. Guess I'm stuck here. Though there's a nice spot in the Appalachian hills where I'd love to spend my retirement.

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