Tag Archives: Saving Money

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts: Product Review

A few years ago, I bought a large chest freezer with my Costco and American Express cash back checks, and since then I’ve been able to take better advantage of all the deals that are offered at Costco. My family is not vegan, and we buy a lot of meat, but we try to buy smart, always getting what’s on special, ideally something easy to freeze so we can buy in bulk. For some reason I’d always resisted buying the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts; maybe I was afraid to buy something that came in a box, or was such a good deal. I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded, and that this chicken may just be the best deal at Costco!

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts

Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts

First off, let’s talk price; the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts (also skinless and boneless) costs $24.99 for a 3-kilogram box. That’s about $8.3 per kilogram, compared to about $14 when fresh, also at Costco. This translates into a saving of about 40-45%, which is huge. The bag contains three kilos, which in the case of the box I bought, meant 15 chicken breasts, or $1.66 each. It also means that on average, each chicken breast weighed 200 grams, which is quite a healthy portion.

It’s also worth noting that these Harvest Creek chicken breasts come with no skin or bones, meaning that you get all meat for the price. If your breast weighs 200 grams, you’ve got 200 grams of meat and proteins, which is nice. No waste.

When it comes to taste, your results will vary depending on the method you use to cook them, and how they are seasoned. Personally I put them in the oven, following the instructions, sprinkled liberally with Herbes de Provence, which give them a nice perfume without overly salting them. I also put a little bit of salt and pepper. When you look at the ingredients, you’ll notice that it’s not just chicken:

  • Chicken
  • Water
  • Salt

This suggests that the chicken breasts are injected with brine prior to freezing; while I would not normally be a fan of such a practice, the price is reasonnable enough that I can live with a bit of water and salt.

Moreover, the result is that the Harvest Creek Seasoned Chicken Breasts are quite moist and tender, not dry as breast meat usually ends up being. I’m very happy with my purchase, and will certainly restock as soon as I’m done with this box. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Costco has these items on special, but the regular price will have to do!

Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap at Costco: Product Review

I’m actually excited about writing this review, because the size of these jugs of soap is so massive that I don’t think I’ll get the chance for another couple of years! Okay, maybe *excited* is too strong a term for hand soap, but you know what I mean. Buying things like these is the real essence of Costco savings, and why I try to shop there as much as I can. I did a relatively large Costco order the other day, and it seemed like the right time to stock up on hand soap, as our supplies at home were depleted. I got the Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap, in not one, but two massive, 2.36 liter jugs, for only $11.49, plus applicable taxes.

Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap

Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap

Now I don’t need to tell you that this is a bunch of soap. Combined, these two jugs represent almost 5 liters of hand soap, which is quite a bit more than a gallon, imperial or otherwise. The little dispenser bottle I fill up contains 340 ml, which means that I can refill it almost 14 times before running out. This means that each refill costs me about 83 cents. If you compare that with buying a new dispenser at the pharmacy, like countless people do, every time they need more hand soap, you’ll realize that the savings are incredible, in all likelihood in the range of 75% to 90%, depending on the specials in your area.

But what about the soap itself? Is it any good? Well, it washes my hands without drying them out, and is certainly appropriate for all but the most compulsive hand-washer. I wash my hands an appropriate number of times during the day (without going into details), and have never experienced dry excessively dry hands, except maybe for a few days in winter. I’m certain that you could find hand soap that is marginally better than the Soaftsoap with Aloe Vera, but not at this price, that’s for sure.

Here are the ingredients of the Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap, in decreasing order:

  • Aqua (that’s water, with a fancier name)
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Laureth-3
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Glycol Stearate
  • Sodium Chloride
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Perfume
  • Polyquaternium-7
  • PEG-18 Glyceryl Oleate/Cocoate
  • Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (that’s the Aloe Vera)
  • Citric Acid
  • Tetrasodium EDTA, Glycerin
  • Poloxamer 124
  • Hydrolyzed Silk

As you can see, the list is heavy with chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients, but that doesn’t mean much. This is hand soap, not chicken soup. You’ll notice, however, that the Aloe Vera, which features prominently in the name of the product, is quite far down the ingredients list. There’s not that much in there, and the Softsoap hand soap relies partly on hydrolyzed silk for its silky, smooth feel. This hand soap is manufactured and distributed by Colgate-Palmolive.

In closing, I’ll mention something that is often overlooked in reviews such as these: the containers themselves. They are made of recyclable plastic, and are easy to squeeze, but not *too* easy. You don’t want to make a mess when you refill your little bottles. They are easy to grasp and hold, and the lid easily snaps open and shut (see picture), making for a convenient pour. Overall, I must say that I’m quite happy with my Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moiturizing Hand Soap, on all levels: the price is right, the quantity convenient, the soap cleans and the containers are recyclable and easy to use. Five stars. So far I’m two on two with my Softsoap products!

Dollarama Slide Seal Medium Freezer Bags: Product Review

I like shopping at Costco much more than I do at Dollarama, but I do occasionally enjoy my visits there. It often affords me the opportunity to buy my son a small, inexpensive toy that doesn’t burst my wallet, and that makes his day. My visit there yesterday, however, was to purchase something quite mundane and quite useful: freezer bags. The best deal is on Dollarama Slide Seal Medium Freezer Bags, which are available at a cost of $1.25 (plus taxes) for 12 bags, or just over 10 cents each. Each bag measures 20.5 cm x 20.5 cm (or 8 x 8 inches, more or less). They’re a perfect size for a wide variety of things in the kitchen, including meat, fish, sauces and prepared meals. These bags are branded ‘Seal Store’ but I’m pretty sure this is a brand that belongs to Dollarama.

Dollarama Slide Seal Medium Freezer Bags

Dollarama Slide Seal Medium Freezer Bags

By way of comparison, these Ziploc-brand medium freezer bags cost about 15 cents each when bought on the website (they’re probably cheaper at Costco), and they’re quite a bit bigger.

A first view, these freezer bags sound like a pretty good deal; the plastic is quite thick, as it should be for a freezer bags, and the slider works surprisingly well. The slider is supposed to offer a ‘dual seal’ to help keep food fresh, just like the Ziploc.

Of course, the packaging encourages you to take the air out of the bags before sealing and freezing, but I’m sure you know that. Personally, I either use a straw or just suck the air out if I’m planning long-term storage; if i’m not planning that, I don’t really bother.

These bags are, obviously, freezer and fridge-safe -they’d better be! – as well as being microwaveable. I’m not a fan of microwaves, and even less of cooking plastic in them, so I can’t vouch for that.

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with these bags, as well as with their price, but I must mention that my wife made a batch of spaghetti sauce recently, and froze it in batches in these bags – the reason for my visit to Dollarama. While the bags have not leaked, as they are placed full and upright, the freezer smells quite strongly of spaghetti sauce, even though there is no spill. This leads me to believe that in this case at least, these Dollarama Slide Seal Medium Freezer Bags are not nearly as airtight as they could be.

Costco Canada Coupons, Week of July 27, 2015

Good morning, Costco shoppers! Here are the coupons you’ll find this week at your local Canadian Costco warehouse. I have selected Alberta and Quebec as the Western and Eastern Canada representative, so bear in mind that if you are in other provinces, you might have a few more, or a few less coupons. I have noticed that the Quebec coupons are the biggest ones this week, as they include a bunch of items that are on sale for 2 weeks rather than the usual one week.

Western Canada Costco Coupons, Week of July 27th, 2015 (Alberta)

Costco Western Canada Coupons, week of July 27, 2015

Costco Western Canada Coupons, week of July 27, 2015

My personal favorites in Western Canada are the Korean barbecue pork jerky, which I’ve never tasted but would undoubtedly love, and the Smoked bacon breakfast hash, which I’ve tried several times and is absolutely delicious – just add eggs! The red potato salad also looks great.

Eastern Canada Costco Coupons, Week of July 27th, 2015 (Quebec)

Eastern Canada Costco Coupons, week of July 27th, 2015

Eastern Canada Costco Coupons, week of July 27th, 2015

In eastern Canada, my pick would be the scallops, which are huge, and at $6 off per pack, are a real bargain. The aluminum foil is also a great deal and is a great thing to stockpile when it’s on special. I’ve not paid full price for that stuff in a decade. Most of these are great deals, but are not things I would normally buy, unfortunately.

CJ Bibigo Chicken and Cilantro Mini Wontons at Costco: Product Review

Today I would love to share with you what has become, over the last few years, of my favorite products to purchase at Costco, the Chicken and Cilantro Mini Wontons, from CJ Food’s Bibigo brand. These won-tons are absolutely delicious, surprisingly healthy, filling and affordable. In short, the perfect combination.

As the back of the package will happily demonstrate, these won-tons are fully cooked, and basically just need to be defrosted and heated through, usually a quick process. They can be pan-fried in about 5 minutes, from frozen, or boiled in less than 3 minutes. A delicious homemade won-ton soup, with a healthy dollop of Hoisin sauce and Sriracha, is one of my favorite weekday lunch meals. Quick and filling.

CJ Bibigo Chicken and Cilantro Mini-Wontons at Costco

CJ Bibigo Chicken and Cilantro Mini-Wontons at Costco

These won-tons are sold at Costco in 3-pound bags, or 1.36 kilograms. The regular price is $12.99 per bag, in Canadian dollars, but they come on sale regularly, so I stock up then. The bag pictured I purchased at $3 off, so $9.99 for 3 pounds, or $3.33 a pound.

CJ Bibigo Chicken and Cilantro Mini-Wontons Nutrition Facts

CJ Bibigo Chicken and Cilantro Mini-Wontons Nutrition Facts

According to the nutrition fact sheet, each serving is comprised of four (4) won-tons, for a total of 36 grams. We can thus deduce, through the power of intellect and basic math, that each bag contains approximately 150 won-tons.

When I make my soup, just for me, I use about 15-20 won-tons. So each massive bowl of soup costs me less than a dollar in won-tons, and I have not calculated the cost of the chicken broth yet, but I buy it at Costco too, so it’s super cheap per serving.

Besides the fact that these won-tons are really, really good, I love the fact that they are reasonably healthy, for something that you buy frozen in a bag. As you can see by the nutrition fact sheet to the left, each serving contains few calories – only 50 – and very little fat, only 1% per serving. What is highest in this case is the sodium, at 7% per serving, but even when you multiply it by 5, because you *will* eat more than 1 serving, it’s still not that bad.

Of course, when combined with the Hoisin sauce, you’ll probably get sausage fingers and be really thirsty, but that’s on you, not on the won-tons!

On to the ingredients. At first glance, the best news is that there are no incomprehensible ingredients. I can actually tell what all the ingredients in these won-tons are, which is uncommon, again, for frozen stuff that comes in a bag. The first ingredient is chicken -good news! – and sugar, my personal least favorite, comes way down the list.

Seriously, though, I have nothing more to say. Look at the ingredients. These things are wholesome by prepared food standards. Really wholesome. Of course, don’t look for them to contain much in the way of vitamins, but that’s a minor drawback. You can read more about the history of won-tons right through here (opens in a new window)

Bibigo’s Chicken and Cilantro Mini-Wontons, available at Costco are best served pan-fried and tossed with oyster sauce, on rice with sauteed vegetables, or in soup. Just be careful not to overcook them, or they’ll become very mushy and lose their shape and substance, if not their taste. Stock up when they are on special at Costco, and keep a bag or two of these in the freezer; they make for a quick, healthy meal the whole family will love! Sounds corny, I know, but in our case, it’s true!

Norchem Dishwashing Liquid at Costco: Product Review

You all know how I love a good deal. Not because I’m cheap, mind you, but because I like spending money on important stuff – like my children – rather than on daily necessities. That being said, you still have to have the ‘daily necessities’. They’re not called ‘necessities’ for nothing. You *need* them.

This is why I would like to share with you what is arguably one of the very best deals at my favorite store, Costco. I present to you the Norchem Dishwashing Liquid.

Now it’s not just that this product is incredible; it is just as good or better than any other dish-washing liquid you can buy, such as Palmolive, or whatever. The real difference here is the price. While a single liter of regular dish-washing liquid at the grocery store or general store – i.e. Target, Canadian Tire, can set you back $3 or $4, you get a whopping 10 liters of Norchem Dishwashing Liquid for the low, low price of $8.99!

Norchem Dishwashing Liquid at Costco

Norchem Dishwashing Liquid at Costco

In terms of quality, the Norchem Dishwashing Liquid can stand tall with the big boys of the industry, despite having quite the institutional name and packaging. It smells lemon-fresh, is soft on the hands, to which I can personally attest, having used this for years, and is tough on grease and baked on dirt, as you would expect.

Price-wise, it comes down to 89.9 cents a liter. I’m not certain how long my previous jug lasted, but it’s certainly more than a year. All my pots and pans, cutlery and dishes washed for a year for under $10, that’s *impossible* to beat.

It also is biodegradable and phosphate-free, which I’ll grant you is not huge, since the phosphate-free thing is required by law. We had a rash of crazy blue algae in the lakes around here, and it was found that the phosphates in the water run-off were causing the explosion. No more phosphates, no more blue algae, everyone’s happy and the soap cleans just as well.

If you think that all you could do with your Norchem Dishwashing Liquid was wash dishes, you would be mistaken. In fact, this is where this product really shines! Check out the recommended uses, as printed right on the side of the container!

Norchem Dishwashing Liquid at Costco - Detail

Norchem Dishwashing Liquid at Costco – Detail

So in addition to cleaning your dishes, you can clean your fine jewelry, your car and treated leather, to name only a few of the recommended uses? That’s fantastic, although I’ll admit to not having used my dishwashing liquid for most of these alternative uses. But it’s good to know you can, and that the company is not pushing you into buying a bunch of other products. The only other product I buy for my dishes are the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs, which I’ve previously reviewed here.

Norchem’s motto seems to be, “we have one product, it cleans everything, and comes in a two-and-a-half gallon monster jug. Use a lot, it’s dirt cheap!

Another great thing about this product is that it is made right here in Canada; it’s not shipped halfway around the globe for me to enjoy. I love the fact that I can support a locally-made product, and that on top of it, it provides me with quality, value and an unbeatable price. If your local Costco carries it, I highly recommend it. If it doesn’t, ask for it; if enough people ask, they’ll start carrying it, believe you me.

Dutailier Ultramotion Glider and Ottoman: Just In

My wife and I are expecting our second child very soon; our little girl could be born right now and she would not be particularly premature. So any day now. Daddy’s freaking out. But enough about that. I’m a big fan of the old saying that says:

If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.

So obviously my wife and I are shopping for stuff for the baby. One thing that is particularly high on her list is a new rocking chair, for nursing. The one we had for our first child, I inherited from my grandmother. Despite new cushions, it is hard, uncomfortable, narrow – even for my wife – and short-backed, so no relaxing. Here is the new chair we got!

Dutailier Ultramotion Glider Rocker and Ottoman

Dutailier Ultramotion Glider Rocker and Ottoman

We did not buy this new. We shopped around a little, and even on special, chairs like these that include the ottoman are anywhere from $225 to $500 and over, plus taxes.

For this kind of money, we can tolerate a rocking chair that has been gently used. For comparison, check what is available on Costco.ca.

The only difference that I can see between the new, 2015 Costco model and ours is that the newer one has a mechanism to block the chair in place, while ours doesn’t. Considering we are buying a rocking chair, that didn’t seem very important.

The Dutailier Ultramotion Glider and Ottoman we got used from someone on Kijiji has a few light stains on the sides, and the cushions are not as puffy as a brand-new one. Of course, the new one will set you back over $500, plus taxes, while we paid $100 for ours. On top of it all, this nice chair is made right here in Canada; feels right to keep our money here (even though we bought it second hand) and the quality matches and exceeds all expectations.

A hundred bucks still seems like a lot of money, but my wife’s comfort as she nurses is paramount. She’s happy, so I’m happy. Hopefully the little one will like it, too!

Folgers Classic Roast Coffee: Real Savings

On my quest to reduce my daily expenses even further, I’ve decided to cut down on my own brewed coffee. I used to drink to Kirkland Signature Colombian Coffee, however the price went up significantly in the last months, so I’ve had to look for alternatives. What I found surprised even me!

Folgers Classic Roast, 920g

Folgers Classic Roast, 920g

I was always resistant to buying Folgers Classic Roast Coffee, for the simple reason that I saw it advertised on TV. Too commercial. But you really can’t avoid the cost, and the savings.

For the record, I make, or brew coffee, once a day, in the morning. Depending on the day, I make 6, 7 or 8 cups, as measured by the coffee pot, for which I use between 3 and 4 tablespoons of coffee. To be honest, the spoon I use is special, and I’m not sure exactly how much it contains, but it looks to be about a tablespoon.

The pictured Folgers container contains 920 grams of ground coffee, or 2 pounds and 0.5 ounces. I purchased and started using it on October 26th, 2014 and finished it, completely on December 5th, 2015.

I paid $6.88 for the container, on special at Giant Tiger (a Canadian discount Walmart-type store, but much, much smaller).

So I drank coffee for a total of 40 days, every day, for less than 7 dollars. For the mathematically inclined, I drank all the coffee I needed for a paltry 17.2 pennies per day.

If I can maintain this for the rest of the year, and I think I can, considering I just bought a huge batch for the same price, my morning coffee habit will cost me only $62.78 for the year, or just a hair over 5 dollars a month!

I will be posting this under my “Small Things” header. By calculating exactly where you spend your money, you can save a bundle without really changing your habits, but by shopping just a bit smarter!

Look at the specials, use a calculator or even better, an Excel spreadsheet, and buy in bulk when the prices reach the price you want to pay. All you need is a little patience, and some spare room to store your loot!

 

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter Now at Costco

I’m a big fan of the cat litter normally available at Costco, Qualicat. I’ve been using it for years, and it performs admirably. It keeps the nasty ammonia smell away, mostly, and is surprisingly easy to clean thanks to its clumping capabilities. My local Costco sells pallets and pallets of the stuff every week, thanks no doubt in great part to its excellent price, only $7.99 for 22.7 kilograms, or 50 pounds.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed a new brand no earlier than two weeks ago. The Simplicity Yours cat litter brand is now available at Costco, at least in Canada. Visually speaking, the box is exactly the same size and weight, 22.7 kilograms, except it has a slightly more modern design and graphics. As far as the litter goes, it looks exactly the same as the Qualicat, except maybe a tiny bit more finely ground. Not much, but a bit. This may help improve clumping.

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter at Costco

Simplicity Plus Cat Litter at Costco

As you can see on the picture above, Simplicity Plus Cat Litter positions itself as a better-clumping, dust-free cat litter that is designed to handle the waste of several cats at once. Here are some of the details:

  • Made from 100% natural clay, which is unfortunately strip-mined
  • Contains Baking Soda and Odor Check; great idea. I hope there’s a lot.
  • Moisture activated herbal botanical essence, which is in theory a great idea.
  • Immediate extra-strength odor control; we’ll see about that
  • Harder and faster clumping; I’m tempted to believe that one, based on the litter consistency
  • 99% dust-free; compared to what? 1% can still be a lot.
  • Claims to be safe for cats and kittens; good! Isn’t it made for them?

I’m sorry I’m being cynical here, but come on. This is cat litter, made from strip-mined clay with some baking soda and scent added. I’m certain it works well, and I understand they have a product to sell, but I find it increasingly difficult to take packaging claims seriously, let alone at face value. Like the guys making bacon who had the great idea of labeling it ‘Gluten Free!’ to get on the bandwagon. Give me a break. Feel free to follow this link to learn about other types of cat litter.

Of course, everything else being equal, the Simplicity Plus Cat Litter offered at Costco has one advantage over Qualicat: it is a whole $0.20 cheaper. Not per pound, mind you. Twenty cents cheaper. Per box. It costs $7.79 instead of the outrageous $7.99 Costco charges for Qualicat. I’ve decided to save 20 pennies and give it a shot, to see if the product measures up to the hype on the box. I’ll update this post in the future with the results. In the meantime, if you’ve tried it before, go ahead and chime in in the comments!

UPDATE – November 10th, 2014

This litter *sucks*. The whole basement smells like the worst kind of litter, never mind the “odor control formula” and the clumping is just a terrible, terrible joke. My cat’s number one business clumps fall apart at the first sign of scooping, requiring me to change more litter than I should, and number two business doesn’t really require clumping, now does it?

I would be better off with a box of sand.

I will go through this box – quickly, I might add – and go back to Qualicat cat litter, which has found its place anew at my local Costco. Goodbye, Simplicity Plus Cat Litter! You’re a horrible product and I’ll be thrilled to see the last of you!

How To Save Money On Coffee

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a real, bona fide coffee addict, which means that I need to have coffee regularly, particularly in the morning and before lunch. In real terms, that translates to about 3 coffees a day, when I’m at work. This doesn’t include the coffee I drink at home, which I talked about in this excellent article.

The coffee machine at work charges $0.50 (fifty cents) per coffee, including all the sugar, cream or milk I could ever need. I drink one coffee before starting work, and one during each of my two breaks, for a total of 3 coffees per day.

A buck-fifty a day for coffee, I hear you say, that’s not that bad. It’s not. Or is it? The devil is in the details, my friends. That innocuous-looking work coffee addiction is quite expensive. Consider this.

  • Cost of Each Coffee: $0.50
  • Coffees per Day: 3
  • Cost per Day: $1.50 … seems alright.
  • Cost per Week (5 days): $7.50 … Ummm. Starting to look expensive!
  • Cost per year: $390 … Holy Mackerel! I knew it! And those are AFTER TAX DOLLARS!
  • Estimated Overall Taxation Rate: 35%

REAL COST: $600 … Yikes!

I knew drinking coffee from the vending machine was not a good long-term idea, but I had no idea it was that bad. I need to EARN $600 to pay for those 3 stupid coffees every day for a year. Ridiculous. I could buy a new Galaxy Tab Pro 4 12.1 for that price. I could make an extra payment on the mortgage, or pay for a good chunk of a vacation.

The thing is, I’m not about to go without coffee at work. Considering the fact that I need the caffeine more than the taste – I mean I’m not a coffee snob, not that I don’t like tasty things – here is the solution. Spoken like a true addict.

Nescafé

The Solution: Nescafé

I got this huge tin of Nescafé at Costco – where else – where I paid about $8 when it was on special. Let’s assume it was not, and that I paid $12, instead. Here’s what it’ll cost me to replace my work coffee with Nescafé, since the coffee machine at work kindly provides free boiling water.

  • Cost of tin of Nescafé: $12
  • Number of Cups per Tin: 260 … that seems like a lot.
  • Cost per cup: $0.046 … just under a nickel.
  • Cost per year of drinking Nescafé: $35.88, after taxes

Net Savings, after taxes: $354.12

There you have it. After a year of drinking Nescafé, I’ll have saved over $300. That it very significant, and just one of the many small things you can do to save money, increase your quality of life without really making any sacrifices.

Can you think of other ways, such as this one, in which to save money? Share in the comments below. I’ll be happy to try out your ideas.

Incidentally, I’ve decided to make this article the start of a new Series, called “The Small Things”, where I’ll share all my ideas about the small changes that we can make to our lives that will end up having a huge impact, financially, health-wise and more. Stay tuned.