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Nuts about peanuts


Cost: About $3
Success: 4.5/5

As I write this I’m choking down my peanut butter on the brittle gluten free tortillas I accidentally bought. The peanut butter is great, it’s the ground pulp (I assume) in this tortilla that’s throwing me off.

A few days ago I had the whim to make my own peanut butter. I didn’t have any in the house and I was surprised how easy it was to make on my own. First I roasted the peanuts, then I transferred them to my food processor. It was satisfying to see them going from peanuts to peanut dust to an oily paste.

The recipe calls for a small amount of honey and salt. My palate is not yet refined enough to enjoy such pure peanut butter, so I added maybe four times as much honey as the recipe called for. Enough to make it taste like the storebought stuff. I skipped the extra oil because it didn’t really need it.


  • Easy to make in a pinch
  • Can have less sugar, salt and oil than storebought peanut butter
  • Skips out on a lot of the junk that goes into the storebought stuff. For example; molasses, vegetable oils, mono and diglycerides.
  • Can customize flavour with different nuts or the addition of cocoa
  • A bit cheaper than buying from the store
  • Tasty!



  • Not that much cheaper. 300g of peanuts filled a small mason jar for around $3
  • Jar only lasts about a month in the fridge
  • Texture is not as creamy. This may be because I didn’t add oil, or because I didn’t process it long enough


In the end it lost half a point because it’s not that much cheaper and it has a fridge life of only a month. Tasty stuff, though. It’s worth a try and I’ll make it again. Maybe next time with cocoa powder…







Lord of the Fries



Cost: A dollar? The price of three potatoes and some oil
Success: 4.5/5

Earlier this month I was so excited about getting back into cooking that I daydreamed about buying a big sack of potatoes.

This weekend I made fries from scratch for the first time. I thought it would be much more complicated. It’s actually cheap and surprisingly healthy to make my own. The recipe I followed uses the tiniest amount of oil and some sugar for crispiness.

These fries are so much better than sad storebought oven fries. Really, try the recipe!

I made some lazy dipping sauces to go along with them – honey mustard mayonnaise and curry mayonnaise. Both were delicious, but super high in calories. My next mission is to find healthier dipping sauce recipes.

I cut up and seasoned another batch today. I want to see how well they cook from frozen.

I can never quit youuu, blog


Well look who’s come crawling back once more!

At the end of the summer of 2015 my former tenant moved back in. Things weren’t going well at her new place and I kind of missed having her around. The rental income allowed me to pay more toward my mortgage as well as contribute regularly to an RRSP. I also made two big trips – to Australia (to visit my sister) and to Germany/Iceland. I visited my family in Germany, and on the way back IcelandAir allowed a free stopover so I spent 5 days in Iceland. (Nice scheme, guys! It works. ;))

Not long before Christmas I found out my tenant was moving out, which left me panicked about money. My accounts were still looking sad after my trips, and I was having trouble restocking my savings even with the rental income. I made a few lists to calm myself down. One was a list of benefits to living alone again, and another was a list of free or cheap things that make me happy.

A day or two later I woke up realizing I’m pretty smart with my money, and I knew having a tenant wouldn’t be permanent so I had allocated most of my rental income accordingly. Each month I was putting $200 extra toward my mortgage, $100 into an RRSP, $150 into a hard-to-dip-into savings account, and a bit into general savings. (In theory… that usually got eaten up.) I was also spending about $40 more on heat and electricity per month. That added up to $490 of the $590 I was getting in rent, so not so bad.

I scaled most of those back right away.  It’s not ideal and it’s also not meant to be long-term. I’m hoping to earn more side income through my photography (yeah yeah, I’ve been saying that for a while) and a potential side job supervising exams. With that income, I’ll to put the first $50 toward savings, the next $50 toward mortgage, the third $50 toward savings, the final $50 toward mortgage, and anything beyond that I can use however I feel like.

I also started automatically transferring part of my paycheque into two savings account. One is for yearly costs like insurance, property taxes and other predictable amounts. The other account is to set money aside for Teddy’s veterinary costs and car repair bills.

I’m also trying to be more disciplined about how I spend money. I was spending a whole lot on lunches and coffee at work and not using up my groceries. I’ve brought down my coffee and fast food budgets, and I’ve been bringing lunch almost every day and making my own coffee. I’m excited about cooking again and I feel like I have more control over my health.

Anyway, I’m determined to be thrifty again, and I’m enjoying it so far.


The surprising liberation of being broke


For almost a month I’ve been on a spending freeze, meaning I’ve stopped buying (almost) anything unnecessary. I had two big bills within 2 weeks of each other and now I’m trying to minimize the amount I carry over on my credit card. I’ve never had so little money in the bank.

I’ve discovered a surprising perk to being broke – I no longer feel guilty about not spending my money! I can walk into a store without feeling the pressure to buy something. I don’t care about coming off as cheap. I don’t feel pressured to spend a lot on presents. Yesterday I got a call from a charity, and I could honestly say I couldn’t afford to donate. It felt great. 😉

But I’m still not a hipster.



I’ve evaluated my monthly budget several times to make sure there are no ongoing costs I could cut down on. My cell phone and internet are pretty low. Some costs won’t budge, like property tax, strata fees, water and sewage and car insurance. Some things I shouldn’t cut down on, like savings and charity. This means I have to save on groceries, eating out and coffee, which currently have a combined budget of $213/month.

(There is also some room to save on gas and transit)

Since the start of my spending freeze I’ve found a couple more things that are cheap to make at home.

Bubble Tea
I can see the tubs of powder that get scooped into my bubble tea, so why do I pay upwards of $4?? After some research I bought some powder from a grocery store in downtown Richmond that sells a lot of Asian stuff. $2.29 for a 120 gram bag!

The powder tastes almost exactly like coconut bubble tea from the Night Market. I’m still figuring out how much to use (it takes a lot!) and how to mix it. The powder clumps and floats, but with enough mixing the results are decent. Decent enough for the amount of money I save!

( I don’t make it with pearls, but those can be made at home too.)

Blueberry syrup

My friend visited last week. We bought a big box of blueberries straight from a farm ($4! I love Richmond!) There were a bunch left over, so I made jam. I didn’t use pectin, so my creation was more of a syrup. It was really easy. The gist of it was to boil 2 cups of blueberries, 1 cup of sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a small amount of water. Squishing the blueberries was the hardest part, so next time I’d loosely chop them in the blender before simmering them. It was enough for one and a half little jam jars.

Jen and the Spending Freeze


I go through periods of stinginess and overspending. Because of some bad planning this year, I’m in an extreme stinginess period at the moment. I spent the money that should have been set aside for property tax and car insurance, and now I’ve frozen my spending (as much as possible) until I pay off my bills.

I’ve been at it for two weeks, and it’s gone surprisingly well so far. It’s amazing what people can do when they have to. I was able to shift my mindset so I get more satisfaction out of being thrifty and resourceful than I would out of spending money.

Some things I’m doing:

Cleaning out the cupboards
I have plenty of canned goods, chickpeas, coconut milk, unopened sauces, pasta, grains and sauce packages. I also have a lot of coffee, spices, dried herbs, and packaged snacks. Before I went on my spending freeze, it was too tempting to eat new food rather than stuff that had been in the cupboard for ages. I don’t like having too much stuff, but I really like buying new stuff. It’s frustrating. I’m getting plenty of satisfaction out of whittling down my supplies.

Cleaning out the fridge
Since I’m cooking more, I use more vegetables before they go bad.

Grocery shopping at the farm market
It’s a perfect time of year, and it’s much cheaper and healthier than a regular grocery store since there are very few non-vegetable distractions. (And jars of pickles don’t have the same pull as a bag of buttery and crumbly and blueberry-filled  scones.)

Going to regular grocery stores with a very short shopping list
I still need to go to the grocery store for milk and a few other things, but I decide what I’m getting before I go in so I don’t veer off into the convenience food aisles.

Not having a microwave
My microwave started to spark because of rust inside the door, so I stopped using it right away. (It’s 15 years old and is in otherwise perfect working condition – yay Panasonic!) Until I can afford a new microwave I’ve been going without, and that makes it harder to cook impulse foods which are usually more expensive and less healthy anyway.

Getting good use out of the kitchen
I made blueberry syrup yesterday, and it was ridiculously cheap and easy. Then I made crepe batter. The whole gourmet experience cost maybe $4.

Walking a lot
I’ve gone on a few long walks to save the cost of a bus ticket or gas. This isn’t the most efficient way to save money (walking 12km to save $2.20?) but it feels good and is good for me, so the rewards are a bit indirect.

Making my own coffee
I still go on coffee walks with coworkers, but I drink instant stuff at my desk. It’s not necessarily good, but it tastes like saving $2.

Digging out the gift cards
Kind of like my wealth of canned and dry goods, I have a few gift cards to my name. I’ve also used those carefully. A weekly Starbucks drink tastes a lot better than a daily one. Strange how buying less, rather than spending more,  leads to more value.

I’ve had to buy a few things (bus tickets, rice noodles for mason jar lunches), but I’ve curbed my impulse spending for the moment and it feels good.

Homemade instant lunches 2.0


cost: varies
Success: 5/5

A couple years ago I started making my own instant lunches with mixed success. I gave up after a while.

My issues:

  • Flavour really didn’t have oomph
  • Noodles were starchy and gross
  • Freeze-dried vegetables are lame
  • No proteins – not filling

The good thing about the Internet is that there is always someone who’s found a solution to any problem I may have. A few months ago a friend shared a link to Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles which was inspired by a method found in this cookbook. At first I didn’t like the idea of my vegetables touching my noodles in the fridge because I have a thing with flavour seepage, but I got over myself.

I’ve used the Serious Eats method for two weeks now, and I’ve had success every time.

First, it’s important to use a good base, and Better than Boullion Bullion Bouillon really gives a robust flavour that I haven’t come across in any other flavour bases [I’ve given up on spelling the b-word].

Real vegetables also make a huge difference, and frozen vegetables are super cheap. Much less than freeze-dried ones.

The noodle choice is also a big deal. I’ve tried vermicelli and pre-cooked noodles. Pre-cooked chow mein noodles work well, but they expire quickly.  Vermicelli is great, but not as hearty.

And the meat! I’ve tried beef jerky and cooked shrimp so far. Both have been delicious. This is the most expensive part, so in the future I may try chickpeas as a protein.

Some carry-overs from my previous method:

  • Bean flakes are great for flavour and protein
  • I prefer coconut milk powder to coconut milk because it’s dry
  • My mom’s dried herbs make things extra-tasty and extra fresh
  • Cheeses – especially Parmesan – keep well and add a lot of flavour

No photo today, but there are some very pretty if you follow the link above.