• FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Always Make Extra

    One of our favourite things to do together is cook. We love making food together and Sam has recently decided to start meal planning. This has been a huge money saver for us in a couple of different ways:

    First, we always know what we’re having and the nights of this conversation are gone:

    Sam: What should we have tonight?
    Kyle: I don’t know, wanna just order pizza?
    Sam: Sounds good to me.

    That doesn’t happen anymore because we plan our meals for the week and shop for the week. Plus, every time we make food we always make extra. This way after we make enough food for us two and some for Nixon, we always make sure there is enough left over for both of us to have lunch the next day. Even though we’re usually on cooking for 2 adults, we always cook as though we’re 4 adults, that way we guarantee leftovers.

    It’s no secret that eating out is one of the easiest ways to spend money. We all do it, spend $10 on lunch a couple times a week here, a few dollars on a snack there, but it adds up. If you can cook leftovers and take that for the lunch the next day along with a piece of fruit or veggies and another snack, you should be good to go for the day until you get home for dinner to do it all over again.

    This has been a huge money saver for us and while we still do eat out on occasion, we at least know what day it is and usually where we’re going rather than scrambling and settling on pizza every time.

    What have you found to be a big money saver in regard to food?

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Foreign Transaction Fees

    One thing some of you may or may not know is that every time you use your credit card in another country or spend in another currency online, your credit card issuer or bank charges you an additional 2.5% for doing the exchange from whatever currency you paid in to your home currency.

    For example, we fill up our cars in the States almost exclusively, a Frugal Friday post on it’s own next week where we will show you how it saves us lots of money, and we specifically use a credit card that does not charge us a foreign transaction fee.

    Now, the argument can be made, and is very viable that the 2.5% fee is so low that it doesn’t matter and you could be earning points on that purchase that make up for the 2.5% fee. If you’re that person then by all means go about your purchases that way, it is a great option and we will not fault anyone that decides to do that.

    On the other hand, if you would like to avoid the 2.5% fee there are a few good Canadian credit card options for avoiding this fee.

    Scotia_Passport_VisaInfinite_ENG

    Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

    • Earn 25,000 bonus points after minimum spend is met
    • Minimum spend is $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months
    • Annual fee of $139
    • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 you spend on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis and more)
    • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point on every $1 you spend on all other eligible purchases
    • Add a supplementary cards with the fee waived for the first supplementary card
    • You will not be charged a Foreign Currency Conversion mark-up on international foreign currency purchases made online or outside of Canada
    • Airport lounge access through your complimentary Priority Pass™ membership, which allows 6 free visits per year from the date of enrolment
    • Redeem for travel anywhere, anytime, with no travel restrictions

    This is in our opinion one of the best options when it comes to cards that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. The big negative is the $139 annual fee which is not waived for the first year. However, we have it on good accord that this card will be on Great Canadian Rebates within the first few days of April and will offer you some cash back to offset the annual fee (see below). We talked about Great Canadian Rebates on last week’s Frugal Friday and how it can earn you lots of cash back, especially on credit card applications. If you don’t have an account you can make one by clicking here.

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    Not only that, but the Priority Pass membership and 6 free lounge visits are worth at least $99 USD which basically offsets the annual fee on their own. Plus, the 25,000 points after meeting the minimum spend are worth $250 towards travel.

    In the end, this is a great option for a card that does not charge you a foreign transaction fee and gives you some other excellent perks.

    You can apply for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and get $50 cash back here.

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    Brim Financial Mastercard

    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent
    • No annual fee
    • Step-Up Loyalty program where you earn more points the more you spend at the same place
    • Mobile Device Insurance
    • Free Boingo WiFi membership giving you access to WiFi in airports, airplanes, trains, hotels and cafes around the world
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Earn 10,000 points when you refer 5 friends who activate their card

    Many people are very excited about Brim Financial. They offer 3 cards, the Brim Mastercard, Brim World Mastercard and the Brim World Elite Mastercard. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you can see the comparison of all 3 cards.

    The Brim Mastercard in our opinion is the best card because it has no annual fee and the main benefits are the same. The only difference is the earn rate, 1, 1.5 and 2 points per dollar spent, respectively, and insurance coverage, but if you have a different card and only use this card for foreign transactions, it is likely that you already have another card with good insurance.

    The unique thing about the Brim cards are their Step-Up loyalty program where you earn more points per dollar spent the more you spend at that store with participating merchants. Here is what Brim has to say about this program:

    While you continue to earn your base rate on all of your purchases sometimes we’ll replace it with something even better: you can take advantage of accelerated earn offers the more you shop at participating retailers – restaurants, coffee shops, travel and more. As an example, you could earn 2 points on every $1 spent on your first visit, 4 points for every $1 spent on your third visit, and 10 points for every $1 spent on your 6th visit. You can browse all available offers and track what level of earn you’re at on the Brim Marketplace – in the Brim Portal and App.

    This could definitely be an option for those who frequent the same places. For us, we feel there are better cards out there for everyday spend that earn points that can be better utilized for value if you value travel. For example, the American Express Cobalt Card earns 5x points on food related purchases, the highest bonus in Canada. If you don’t want to redeem for travel then Brim could be just for you.

    Regardless, they don’t charge you foreign transaction fees, have a unique loyalty program for earning points and give you free WiFi on planes which could be a big value for those who fly often as airplane WiFi can be very expensive.

    Brim is about to start rolling out these cards and those that are interested can get their spot in line by signing up here.

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    Rogers Platinum Mastercard

    • $25 in cash back rewards after first eligible purchase
    • $29 annual fee is waived for the first year and every following year as long as your Rogers, Fido, or Chatr wireless bill is setup as a pre-authorized payment
    • 1.75% cash back on all purcahses
    • 4% cash back on all purchases made in a foreign currency
    • Redeem your cash back rewards towards anything Rogers including: Rogers, Fido and Chatr monthly bills, purchases in Rogers, Fido and Chatr branded stores, purchases at Today’s Shopping Choice, Toronto Blue Jays tickets, merchandise at Jays Shop online or in store, and at Rogers Centre concessions.

    This card technically still charges you a fee on foreign transactions but offers a higher percentage of cash back for those purchases made in a foreign currency. you earn 4% cash back on those purchases which means even after the 2.5% foreign transaction fee you still get 1.5% cash back. Most cards that earn cash back don’t offer cash back at this high of a percentage. For example, if a card offers 2% cash back and you make a purchase in another currency, after the 2.5% foreign transaction fee you still are paying a 0.5% fee rather than actually earning cash back on that card.

    This is a good card for people who use Rogers or Fido to avoid the annual fee and those who are Jays fans as you can use your rewards for tickets, merchandise, and Rogers Centre purchases. Even if you aren’t a Rogers or Fido user, the $29 annual fee isn’t that bad of an annual fee to have to pay.

    You can apply for the Rogers Platinum Mastercard here.

    In our opinion, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is our favourite and is the card that we use. We applied before the card was announced to be on Great Canadian Rebates but we suggest waiting until it is announced on Great Canadian Rebates before applying to help offset that annual fee. For those unfamiliar with Great Canadian Rebates, a reminder that we talked about it in last week’s Frugal Friday post.

    Is there a favourite no foreign transaction fee credit card that you love that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Cash Back

    Disclaimer: Some of the below links may earn us a referral bonus. If this post was at all helpful to you we appreciate if you use the links. If you did not find it helpful, you can go directly to the website rather than using our links.

    As we’re sure you know by now, we like saving money and finding a good deal. You also know we like credit cards because they often come with great rewards for travel. That being said, often times cash back cards are overlooked when they can provide incredible value. Maybe you’re someone who isn’t interested in travel points and you would just prefer to have cash back. That’s awesome. You can save a lot of money that way.

    There are two main ways to get cash back: shopping portals and credit cards.

    Shopping Portals

    Shopping portals are our new favourite thing. We’ve known about them for a long time but never really used them. Now, we don’t make an online purchase without checking a cash back portal. In Canada, we have two major shopping portals that offer cash back. There are others but there are two big ones and these are the ones we will cover.

    ebates
    Photo Courtesy of Ebates

    Ebates

    Ebates is the biggest cash back shopping portal that we have here in Canada and it is fantastic. They have so many retailers that most of us shop at regularly and the cash back opportunites are pretty much endless. Here are a few other the retailers you can earn cash back through:

    • Sephora
    • Old Navy
    • Expedia
    • The Bay
    • Clearly Contacts
    • Amazon Canada
    • Best Buy
    • Indigo
    • Home Depot

    That’s a small list because they have many more.

    So, how does it work?

    First, you need to create an account. Click here to create an account. Once your account is setup you are ready to shop. Now, any time you want to shop you go to Ebates first. When you see the retailer you want to shop at you click on them. Ebates will redirect you to that retailer’s website. You proceed to shop and checkout as normal. Your order will have a special source code attached to it that the retailer will communicate with Ebates and tell Ebates how much you spent and then Ebates will deposit the appropriate amount cash back into your account. Ebates often has special promos where certain retailers will earn you double cash back or an increased cash back amount so I suggest opting in to their mailing list.

    GreatCanadianRebates
    Photo courtesy of Boomer & Echo

    Great Canadian Rebates

    Great Canadian Rebates, or GCR for short, is a great shopping portal but it is definitely much smaller than Ebates. Is has some of the same retailers and some different ones, too. Here is a small example of small of their retailers:

    • TurboTax
    • 1-800-FLOWERS
    • Etsy
    • Expedia
    • Coach
    • Lowe’s
    • Sportchek
    • Amazon Canada

    Often we will go to both to see which portal is offering the most cash back before we buy anything.

    Great Canadian Rebates works the exact same way as Ebates. You can sign up for an account by clicking here.

    The thing that we love about GCR is that they offer cash back on approved credit card applications. We previously mentioned that the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard is one of those. If you apply for and are approved for the card you will earn $60 cash back. That effectively turns the $75 annual fee into $15 which is a really good deal.

    Some of the other credit cards you can get cash back on are:

    There are many other cards but those are some of the more popular ones. Great Canadian Rebates and Ebates are great sites and we highly recommend you sign up for both and check which one has more cash back before making your next online purchase. In the end, it’s free money to go shopping and you can’t be mad about that.

    Cash Back Credit Cards

    In Canada we have plenty of cash back credit cards but we will only cover the ones we think are best and are worth your time.

    Cash-Back-Infinite-Visa-Card-large_tcm341-237865
    Photo Courtesy of TD Canada

    TD Cash Back Visa Infinite

    • 9% cash back on gas, grocery and recurring bill payments for the first 3 months
    • $120 annual fee
    • 3% cash back on groceries, gas and recurring bills after 3 months
    • 1% on all other purchases
    • Redeem cash back at any time to pay down the card balance
    • No expiration on cash back
    • Invitations to exclusive food and wine experiences
    • Deluxe TD Auto Club Membership
    • Travel Medical Insurance
    • Delayed and Lost Baggage
    • Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage Insurance
    • Purchase Security and Extended Warranty Protection

    The TD Cash Back Infinite card is great for those looking to earn cash for their credit card spending. The 9% cash back for the first $3,500 spent in the first 3 months is the big draw for this card. If you hit the $3,500 spend in the first 3 months that works out to $315 back. That’s a good deal. Even after you use $120 of that to cancel out the annual fee you’re still up $195. After the first 3 months you get 3% back on groceries, gas and recurring bills which is a good deal also. Personally, I would just use this card for the first 3 months, hit the $3,500 spend then put it in the sock drawer. That being said, using this as your every day spend card will add up to lots of cash back over the year.

    This card has a $60,000 personal income or $100,000 household income requirement. You can apply for this card here.

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    Photo Courtesy of MBNA

    MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard

    • 10,000 MBNA Rewards points after first eligible purchase ($100 value)
    • $89 annual fee
    • 2 MBNA Rewards per $1 spent
    • Points can be redeemed for cash back or travel

    This is another very solid product for cash back. You get 2% cash back on every dollar you spend with no maximum. This is the card I would go to after meeting the $3,500 spend on the TD card for non grocery/gas purchases because that card earns 3% back. This is also a good card to just apply for, buy one thing and get $100 back if you choose to do that.

    Your personal annual income must be greater than $80,000, or your household annual income must be $150,000 or greater to be approved for this card however.

    You can apply for this card here.

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    Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

    • No annual fee
    • Earn 2% Money-Back Rewards on purchases in two 2% Money-Back Categories of your choice, and 0.5% Money-Back Rewards on all other purchases.
    • If you choose to have your Money-Back Rewards deposited into a Tangerine Savings Account you can get a 3rd 2% Money-Back Category.
    • No limit on the amount of Money-Back Rewards you can earn.
    • You can change your 2% Money-Back Categories to suit your spending.

    This is the best card for those who do not meet the income requirements of the above two cards. The unique thing about this card is that you get to choose the categories you earn 2% cash back in. Your options are:

    • Grocery
    • Furniture
    • Restaurants
    • Hotel-Motel
    • Gas
    • Recurring Bill Payments
    • Drug Store
    • Home Improvement
    • Entertainment
    • Public Transportation and Parking

    You can’t just make a change before each purchase though. Each change has to wait 90 days to take effect. This is their way of preventing people from changing the category before every purchase. That being said, most of us spend our money in certain categories more than others and this can definitely be a valuable card to many people.

    You can apply for this credit card here.

    Hopefully some of you will get some benefit from your online shopping and credit card spending. Happy cash back!

    Never stop adventuring!

  • FRUGAL FRIDAY,  parenting

    Frugal Friday: Warehouse Sales

    As you know, we are going local with our kids clothing as we transition ourselves to more locally sourced and ethically made clothing for our family. As you also know, that transition can be very expensive.

    We are frugal people, hence the Frugal Friday segment on the blog. We don’t like paying full price for anything if we don’t have to. One thing I’ve learned through this transition is that being in-the-know can save you a lot of money. Whether it’s following the right accounts on Instagram, being on subscription lists, or just knowing the right people it can save you some dollars.

    Yesterday, one of my favourite local brands, Jax & Lennon, had a warehouse sale where they clear out all of the last season’s clothes at a discount. Everything was minimum 35% off all the way up to 75% off. I found out about it through the Instagram account and knew I would be going.

    After shopping yesterday, our kids are good for all seasons at all ages. We only need to continue to buy new stuff for Nixon as he grows.

    Through this whole process, we haven’t paid full price for anything. We’ve always waited for a sale or discount code before buying.

    We will be doing a fully detailed post about our favourite local brands and why we love some more than other in the near future so stay tuned!

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Phone Plans

    It’s no secret that in Canada we have some of the most expensive cell phone plans on Earth. It’s easy to be jealous of our neighbours to the south when you see their crazy unlimited data plans for $50/month when we up here can barely get 1 GB data for $50/month. That is until Freedom Mobile came along.

    If you’re too lazy to open up those links, here’s the big idea: Freedom Mobile, formerly Wind Mobile, is owned by Shaw. Shaw if you don’t already know is a big Canadian telecommunications company now trying to make their mark on the wireless scene. They recently came out with their Big Gig plans with unlimited everything and 10GB of data starting at $60/month. They then dropped it to $50/month in an attempt to get people to jump ship from the Big 3 (Telus, Rogers, Bell) to them. This past week the Big 3 plus Virgin, Koodo and Fido all matched Freedom Mobile by launching their own plans at $60/month for 10GB if you had your own device.

    Sam and I both have phones that are no longer under contract (we’re with Rogers) so this was an offer we couldn’t pass on. The promotion started on Saturday. After being on hold for 2 hours my call dropped. One hour into my call my brother called too and after 2 hours his call dropped also. Things were getting frustrating. The last day was Monday for those who were new customers but it extended to Tuesday if you were an existing customer. Luckily for me, during the work day on Tuesday one of my patients was my best friend. I told him my phone would be on hold during the treatment and hoped in the one hour treatment time I had with him that I would get through. It had been a challenge to even get a dial tone thus far. I called again. I got a ring. My wait time was between 38 – 52 minutes. Things were looking good. About 40 minutes into his treatment I got through to an agent. Sam’s phone is under my name through my work association so I had to be the one to switch her plan. Easy peasy. One down. While on the same call I was really hoping that I could get the agent to change mine as well. Rogers’ policy is that they only do one change per call unless you are an authorized user on multiple accounts. My phone is under my dad’s work plan. The agent said he would be able to do it if I was an authorized user on my dad’s account. I thought I was but I wasn’t sure. I asked him to check. I was. He confirmed with a supervisor that he could switch it for me as an authorized user and my plan got switched also. Now we both have the following plan:

    $60 + taxes

    • 10GB data
    • Unlimited Canada-Wide Calling
    • Unlimited Canada-Wide Sent & Received Text, Picture & Video Messages
    • Call Display with name display
    • Enhanced Voicemail
    • 2500 Call Forwarding Mins
    • Conference Calling
    • Call Waiting

    The thing is, it’s not like either of us had bad plans before. Sam was getting all of the above with 3GB data for $55/month. So, we’re paying $5 per month more for 7GB more data. It was a no brainer.

    I was paying $65/month for all of the above except picture and video messages with 6GB data. So I saved $5 and get 4GB more data.

    In the end, we as a couple pay the exact same per month but we get more.

    Hopefully some of you got the same deal we did. The Enns family never turns down a good deal.

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY,  LIFE

    Frugal Friday: Facebook Buy & Sell

    This Frugal Friday post is a little different, it’s more about how we make ourselves a little bit of money. I’ve mentioned these buy & sell groups on Facebook before – particularly when looking to save money buying locally made kids clothes. However, they are also a great resource  to use when you’ve cleaned out your house and have a lot of stuff to get rid of.

    One night I had a friend over and she was appalled at how much clothing I had that was out of date. I said I knew I needed to clean it out and take it to the thrift store or donation bin. She then informed me of being able to sell every day items (including clothes) on these sites. It was perfect. Now, be warned that you’re not going to get what you paid for it, or likely even close but if you think about it, getting something is better than getting nothing, which is what you would have gotten if you just donated it. Don’t get me wrong, we still donate a lot of stuff because some things simply don’t sell but we usually try to sell all items on the bidding sites first.

    Let me give you an example, I just recently cleaned out my summer clothes when I was packing them away. I had probably close to 20 different items; a mix of tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, dresses etc. I simply laid them out on our floor, took a photo of them and posted them in a Lower Mainland bidding site. I set a price that was the minimum I was willing to sell the lot for ($5 I think) and people can bid in increments of .50 for the next 24 hours. I think the winning bid was only $7 but it was a win-win for me – my clothes were gone and I made a little bit of cash.

    Kyle and I have cleaned out our house using these sites and it’s awesome. We’ve also done a lot of buying through these sites because often you can find great deals. We bought our dinning room table and chairs for $50!

    These sites seem to have their own lingo so if you’re unsure what someone meant by something just ask – someone can usually help you out. My only warning is to make sure you read the rules that are specific to the group you are posting in and to follow them carefully. Other than that – happy buying & selling!

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Pasta Sauce

    A couple weeks ago we shared out recipe for salsa, if you missed it you can click here. It has been a great way for our family to save money.

    Today we will share our recipe for pasta sauce. The thing we love about pasta sauce is how versatile it can be. You can literally take any type of noodle and mix this sauce in and you have a meal. You can also use it for things like chicken parmesan. You can also modify this recipe however you like, want it saltier, add more salt, want it more garlicy, add more garlic, want mushrooms, add mushrooms. We just use this recipe as a base flavour and then modify as needed.

    Here’s our recipe for about 1L of sauce:

    2 16oz. cans tomato sauce

    6 cloves of garlic, crushed

    1 tbsp. salt

    1 tbsp. black pepper

    2 tbsp. Italian seasoning

    Directions:

    Place all ingredients in a pot on the stove. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Use sauce with whatever dish you wish.

    That’s it. It’s that simple.

    Let us know what modifications you made to your sauce and how it turned out.

    Never stop adventuring!

     

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Main Street Eats: Van Tea Cafe

    Overall Rating 4.5/5

    5688 Main St, Vancouver, BC 
    (604) 565-9983

    7 days a week 9am – 11pm

    This week we had to skip Chevere Eh! due to their incorrect hours on Google and not being able to seat our party when we went. We went down twice and both times we had to go elsewhere for the above reasons. We will review them next week.

    We did get to try a brand new restaurant, only open for 2 weeks, though. Van Tea Cafe. From our research it looks like this location used to be called The Roc. As we walked in, the first thing we noticed was that we were the only white people. It seemed very family friendly and a place Chinese people seemed to enjoy bringing the family to. The next thing we noticed was how nice it was inside. Being a new restaurant, we would assume it should look nice still. Everything was clearly new and we all agreed this was the second restaurant, besides Roots Cafe if you call it a restaurant, where you could tell that the decor really mattered.

    The staff were very welcoming as we the other guests who enjoyed looking at and playing with our kids. We were seated and quickly greeted with tea. It was a tea we had never had in an Asian restaurant before. It wasn’t green tea, none of us could explain it but we hadn’t had it before. It was delicious, though.

    The menu at Van Tea Cafe is expansive; if I remember correctly, it was 8 double sided pages. We looked at it for a long time to try and get an idea of what to order. We did ask our waitress what she recommended and she looked at us and smiled then said, “you would like the sweet & sour pork.” Well, she wasn’t wrong, we all do enjoy that dish but we’re here to try more than the “white people food”. We asked her for another minute so we could decide. We decided upon Spicy Fried Fish in Banana Leaf, Peanut Chili Chicken and we did order the Sweet & Sour Pork. We tried to be a little more adventurous than in the past but for those that think we weren’t adventurous enough, remember, sweet & sour may well be the most popular dish for white people in her experience, which would make it worth reviewing, even if just for the white people who go there, so we ordered it. We chose the other two dishes. We also added an appetizer of roti.

    We were brought two soups right away, one borscht and one we’re not sure of. It had chunks of bone in it and there was some meat on the bone still. It tasted like a chicken noodle broth but that bone was not from a chicken. Either way, both we excellent and coming from a Mennonite background, bring on the borscht!

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    When eating at this restaurant, we suggest ordering dishes and making them share plates. That’s how they are served and I assume it is for that reason. The portions are very large as you can see from the pictures. We finished all the sweet & sour pork and the others were close; there was one piece of fish left and about a quarter of the peanut chili chicken. The roti was basically finished, maybe one piece left.

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    The roti was awesome. It was came with a chinese curry to dip into which was excellent also. If there was a complaint about this dish it would be that the roti came out slightly greasy.

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    I’m glad we ordered the sweet & sour pork regardless of how adventurous, or not, of a choice that was because it was easily the best one all of us had ever eaten. There was truly sweet and sour and the contrast played beautifully as it hit your tongue. Mix your bite with the green pepper or pineapple and it was even better. There’s a reason that was the only dish we finished. There isn’t much more to say about it, it was the best thing we ate that day and the best sweet & sour pork we’ve ever had.

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    The peanut chili chicken was also great. Spicy, though. Spicy enough that if you aren’t a fan of spice it would be worth avoiding, or you could just try taking bites that didn’t include pieces of chili, but it’s all cooked together so you judge for yourself. The peanuts were left with the skin on, something we probably could have done without but it didn’t take away from the dish at all. This dish had more salty flavour than any other flavour we tasted but it was well balanced with the spice to make a perfect match. The portion of chicken is the dish was generous which is always appreciated and a sign they weren’t willing to cheap out on a dish.

    The spciy fried fish in banana leaf was our most adventurous order not knowing what to expect at all. There was no description of how it was served, what kind of fish it was or anything really. It came in a shallow cast iron pot served on top of a banana leaf; it was a great presentation minus the lack of colour outside of the leaf itself. It was topped with a chunky brown topping where the only thing I recognized was onion. As the word ‘spicy’ was in the title we expected spice out of this dish and it was. If the peanut chili chicken was a 6/10 on the spice scale, this dish was at least an 8/10, probably a 9/10. The fish was soft and flaky and fell apart with just your fork, perfectly cooked. For an adeventurous order, we would all eat this again.

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    The value of Van Tea Cafe was phenomenal. Even before the 10% grand opening discount we were very impressed. We forgot to take a picture of the menu and there is no website yet but most dishes range between $12-18. Appetizers are all under $10 as are the desserts. Our total was about $51 for 3 entrees and 1 appetizer after tax. After the discount, our bill was $46 and change. We also got one meal of leftovers out of it. We wer too stuffed to try dessert but the waitress said the red bean pastries have been there most popular by a mile so far.

    One annoying thing about the restaurant was that they were cash or debit only. We thought them not accepting credit may be due to them being a new restaurant but when you open a restaurant isn’t that something that should be figured out and setup ahead of time? From a service point of view that was the only negative here because the rest of it was fantastic.

    Food – 5/5 – everything we ordered was delicious, even the dishes we had never had before

    Service 4.5/5 – excellent table service, annoying that they only take debit/cash

    Kid-friendliness- 4.5/5 – no kids’ menu but very accommodating of kids and had a high chair

    Decor – 4.5/5 – awesome, brand new, included live tanks of seafood on the wall

    Value – 4.5/5 – enough for leftovers without breaking the bank

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Use Your Space

    This past week we looked into moving. We want more kids in the future and when baby number 3 comes along, whenever that may be, we are going to need more space. We found a great ground level suite (more natural light!!) in Ocean Park that we absolutely loved. It was about 500 square feet bigger and would put us more in the middle of both of our families. We were so stoked about it, we emailed right away and asked if we could come and look at the place. Later that night, we stopped and actually thought rationally about the situation.

    What were we getting that we didn’t already have? About 500 extra square feet of living space, which would be great as we currently have to eat dinner at the coffee table or the counter so we would actually have room for a dining table. We would get more natural light which is always a good thing. Currently, we have 4 windows in our whole place and only one of them brings light into our living space. We would get a backyard and a patio that we could use whenever we wanted. We would get to setup a barbecue and not have to walk to the park to go outside. All these things would be great and are things we desire, but ultimately we were being greedy.

    What we are going to need is more bedrooms. All that other stuff I just mentioned above is a bonus but its not necessary like an extra bedroom is. Vanek is currently three and a half months old and he is still in his bassinet in our bedroom. He will start to share a room with Nixon this weekend. So, when baby number 3 comes along, if we follow the same timeline that would mean at 3-4 months we would need to move into a space with another bedroom. Baby 3 could stay in our room until he outgrows his bassinet though, say 6 months.

    So, if we moved we would get some extra things that are great but not necessary and be paying $600 more for them. Why not save that extra $600 a month and put it away into savings so that when we do need a space with an extra bedroom we already have money saved for the extra rent? This was the logical conclusion we came to and ultimately the reason we have decided to stay in our 1,000 square foot basement suite with 4 windows. We love this place; it has all that we need.

    We did do some rearranging, though. We have 2 bedrooms. One massive one and one little one. The massive one, naturally, was where we setup our bedroom when we moved in. It is 16 feet x 14 feet, or exactly 224 square feet. It also has a walk in closet that fits all of our clothes and our stuff that would be in storage, if we had storage. The other bedroom is 10 feet x 11.5 feet, or 115 square feet. As you can see, our bedroom was double the size of the kids’ bedroom. Between the bedrooms was the living space where the kids toys would be and a small floor area for them to play with the toys. The little bedroom had a carpet in the middle where we could also play with the kids.

    Instead of having the kids’ toys in our living space and having to play in a small space, we decided we would swap rooms with the kids and turn our room into their bedroom/playroom. This was our Saturday last weekend. Nixon napped in the playpen in the bathroom and Vanek’s bassinet stretched over the washer/dryer in the laundry room. We turned the fan on and that is where they napped while we moved the rooms around. It took the two of us 4 hours to complete the swap.

    This has been the best decision we ever made. The kids now have a ton of space to play and sleep and their toys are out of our living space. This has done a few things for us: we no longer play with the kids in front of a TV that can easily be a distraction rather than actually playing with the kids. The kids’ toys are out of our living space which means the messes are also gone from our living space. We play with the kids way more now as it is easy to spend lots of time with them when there is lots of room to do different things. Lastly, it forced us to admit to ourselves that we didn’t need more space we just needed to be smarter with the space we had.

    The two of us don’t need much space. Our room now has a bed, two dressers, a nightstand and a laundry hamper. Unfortunately, we also sleep in the room where our freezer is. Everything about the situation isn’t ideal. Nobody wants to sleep with their freezer, but it’s a minor sacrifice for a much greater reward. It also sucks having your closet in the opposite corner of the house, but again, that’s nothing to complain about; our legs work, we can walk.

    This was a great experience for us as it gave us more space, not by adding space but by being smarter with the space we had and humble enough to admit we could just move things around rather than spend more money for more space.

     

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Salsa

    Sam and I have always enjoyed making our own food and whatever sauces we can at home. We aren’t big fans of buying stuff in store that we can make ourselves. Lately, we’ve taken it beyond BBQ and pasta sauce and started to be more adventurous.

    This week we made our own salsa. If you actually think about it, salsa is very simple. It’s a bunch of ingredients thrown together and macerated. It couldn’t be that hard, right?

    Well, we were right. It was simple. And delicious. The only problem being Sam likes her salsa chunky and I like my salsa runnier. We both are fans of a little spice so that wasn’t an issue.

    Here’s our recipe (makes about 4-5L and takes about 30 minutes):

    10 large tomatoes

    2 medium onions

    3 jalapeños

    4 cloves garlic

    1 heaping tsp cumin

    1 heaping tsp black pepper

    1 heaping tbsp salt

    1/4 cup chopped cilantro

    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

    16 oz. tomato sauce

    24 oz. tomato paste

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 450C.

    Halve tomatoes and onions, toss in olive oil, put on a baking sheet and place in oven and remove once onions start to brown.

    Cut tops off jalapeños and halve them. Mince garlic. Chop cilantro. (Do this while tomatoes and onion are in oven.)

    Once tomatoes and onion are out of the oven, add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.

    After 10 minutes, add contents from the pot to a blender. Blend to your likeness.

    Let cool and enjoy!

    Here are some modifications you can make depending on what you like:

    Chunky salsa – dice onion, tomato and jalapeños before adding to pot. Do not blend at all once pot is done simmering.

    Less spicy – use fewer jalapeños and/or remove seeds.

    Thicker – if you like your salsa really chunky with little liquid (almost like a pico) you have a few options here: deseed and skin the tomatoes, don’t use tomato sauce and/or tomato paste or add more tomato paste/don’t add tomato sauce.

    Thinner: double amount of tomato sauce/don’t use tomato paste.

    You can also can this salsa. To do so, add salsa to jars and place sealed jars in a water bath for about 15 minutes to seal the jars.

    All in all, this salsa costs us about $20 when buying the produce from our local produce store. If you were to buy the same amount from a grocery store it would cost you about $30. For about 30 minutes of your time you save $10. We made this salsa on Monday and have eaten some each night and haven’t gone through a whole jar yet.

    Let us know how it turns out for you if you try it or what modifications you made to yours.

    Coming up we will share our recipes for pizza sauce, hummus and other yummy things we like to make ourselves.

    Never stop adventuring!