How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

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Recently, I have received emails from readers asking me tips for saving money on food, especially when buying organic items.

Over the years, I have gradually shifted to buying organic products whenever possible because I believe it is an investment in my health and the environment. Obviously, the downside to buying organic and high-quality foods is often the higher price tag!

But I have a secret-weapon…

I buy in bulk.

Of course, buying in bulk is not really a secret, but it never really sunk in until I opened the bakery. It was my bakery that taught me the beauty of buying in bulk because I was purchasing all of these expensive organic ingredients (Glo Bakery is 100% organic) and I had to find a way to still make a profit at the end of the day.

Along my journey, I also discovered that I could start buying a lot of our household food items in bulk and cut down our grocery bill substantially. My solution is now to buy larger quantities of food and shop less often.

Here are a few of my tips for buying in bulk:

1) Research organic wholesalers in your area.

In the Toronto area, there are a lot of wholesalers, but I zoned in on ones that provide mostly organic, whole foods/nutritious items, and local food options. For example, I wasn’t interested in wholesalers for typical bakery goods like corn syrup or fondant. That narrowed down the list substantially!

I came across a few wholesalers that I now use on a regular basis:

 

2) Seek out a ‘Buying Club’ if you do not own a business in the industry.

One of the first things I noticed about many wholesalers is that many of them require you to have a business in the industry to be able to purchase from them. This wasn’t a problem for me, but it will be a problem if you are simply a ‘regular’ consumer.

But, there is good news!

Some wholesalers, like ONFC, offer what is called a Buying Club.

What is a Buying Club?

Buying Clubs are groups of individuals and/or families who get together to buy directly from the wholesaler. Each member creates an order based on the ONFC Buying Club catalogue, and the club places a collective order to ONFC. We deliver the order to a club member’s home where it is divided into the individual orders. Members then pick-up their orders and pay for their invoices.

The beauty of the buying club is that regular consumers can form small groups and buy in bulk without having to own a business in the industry! I know of a few readers who use this approach and it works well for them.

3) Once you find suitable wholesalers, request the catalogues and start price comparing.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent doing price comparisons and tedious calculations to find the best bang for my buck. It takes a lot of work, but in the end your wallet will be happy. The only downside is that many of the wholesalers I have come across are still ‘old school’ in the sense that they do not have computerized ordering systems online. This makes for slow ordering procedures and I look forward to the day when wholesalers like ONFC make online ordering possible.

To give you an idea, here are a few prices of some things that I buy in bulk:

  • 11.3kg (25 pounds) Organic Dried Chickpeas = $31.75
  • 11.34kg (25 pounds) Organic Pearled Barley = $22.13
  • 11.34kg (25 pounds) Organic Shredded Coconut = $37.67
  • 10 kg (22 pounds) Organic Peanut Butter = $70.28

 

When I think about how long these items last (grains/beans will last years), I am really amazed by how much money can be saved over time. This has also encouraged me to cut down the amount of canned items I buy because the price difference is also huge when comparing canned goods vs. dried goods.

4) Find out the minimum order for free delivery.

On average, the minimum order for my wholesalers is between $300-500 if you want to quality for FREE DELIVERY. This is why I prefer to order less frequently and in larger quantities, because free delivery is priceless when we are talking about 25-50 pound bags. The time it takes me to drive to my wholesaler (over 1 hour at least) and then load all of the items into my small car is just not worth it. Free delivery is where it’s at!

Ordering less frequently does have a downside though- I need to always be on top of my stock and know what I have available and what I am running out of. Before I place an order, I always do a stock check (for both the bakery and home items).

5) Figure out how you will store the bulk items.

I buy just about everything now in bulk (except for produce, but we’ll be switching to the CSA in the late Spring) and storage can become an issue with so many items. The best way for me to store my food in a safe manner is by using FDA-approved food bins. I buy my food bins from a great packaging company called Uline.

I stack the food bins by category such as grains (oats, couscous, quinoa, barley, amaranth, etc), protein (lentils, chickpeas, beans), dried fruit (dates, apricots, cranberries), nut butters, etc. It works out pretty well for me. I also take a permanent marker and clearly label the top and side of each pail.

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Now let me just say this- Food bins are a real pain in my ass!

And they aren’t always great if you don’t have the storage space. Right now, we are cramming our bins in our laundry room, which isn’t ideal but it works for us now because it is close to the kitchen.

It does not make sense for me to keep my frequently used/personal food items only in a food bin. It just eats up a lot of time going back and forth every day. I like to have my frequently used items handy in jars.

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I prefer not to store them on the counter, so I clear a space in the cabinet to store the jars. I also used a permanent marker on the inside of the lid to write what the product is in case there is a chance I may forget.

6) Recycle the Delivery boxes

There can be a lot of packaging leftover when I have a delivery of food items. Wholesalers will throw a bunch of items into boxes whenever possible so it is easier for the driver to carry. Instead of having a bunch of useless boxes lying around, I now empty out the box immediately and give them back to the driver so they can be re-used in another delivery. This helps cut down on needless waste.

7) Find a CSA or hit up the Farmer’s Market

When the season starts up again, we will be ordering another local CSA share. It is a great way to save money on local, organic produce and it also cuts down on grocery trips too.

8.) Bulk Bins

If you can’t order from a wholesaler, try purchasing food from bulk bins in your grocery store or from bulk food stores like Bulk Barn. Both of these methods are often much cheaper and you can also purchase in the quantity that you desire.

As I typed up this post, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast…made in my kitchen for just pennies a bowl. wlEmoticon thumbsup   How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Vegan Overnight Oats

Inspired by Live Well 360.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 1 heaping tbsp carob powder (not the same as cocoa powder- carob is SWEET)
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

 

Directions: Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then whisk in the wet ingredients. Place in fridge for 1 hour or overnight. Enjoy with a spoonful of peanut butter and a drizzle of sweetener.

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We’re off to hunt for a dining room chandelier today. I have discovered that finding a chandelier is not an easy process!

I also appreciate your votes whenever you can, in the Best Health Blog Awards Contest. I am nominated in the Eat Well category. You can vote once a day until March 21st. Thank you in advance!

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{ 113 comments… read them below or add one }

Alaina Rose @ Sweetness of Life March 6, 2011

Awesome! Those are great tips. Thank you :-) Mmmm…..chocolate peanut butter cup oats.

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Alaina March 6, 2011

You have my name! First and middle! Haha. :-)

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Alaina Rose @ Sweetness of Life March 6, 2011

No way! Alaina Rose IS my first and middle name! Haha, we’re twins! I hardly ever meet another Alaina, especially with the same spelling. Awesome!

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Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food March 6, 2011

Great tips!!! And…that breakfast sounds amazing!

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Christina March 6, 2011

Great tips! Too bad that I live in a single-room-apartment without any space for storage;).
Those oats look delish!
Have a nice Sunday!

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Carolyn @Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. March 6, 2011

This is great for grains and nuts, etc.; however, 90% of my shopping cart is produce. Can you offer tips for saving money in that area?

Thanks.

Be well,
Carolyn

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

Have you tried a CSA? We found that we saved a lot of money last spring/summer by using one.

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Carolyn @Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. March 6, 2011

In the past I was part of a CSA, but since I’ve moved, the farm is a good hour drive from me, on the other side of the city. Since my family eats over 20 bananas a week, 10 oranges, 7 apples, etc. (read: a shit ton of produce) we were still having to go to the grocery store to get more. Simply put our weekly basket wasn’t cutting it.

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Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 6, 2011

Definitely farmer’s markets! Most are organic without the label (bc they can’t afford it). Go and talk to the farmer’s to learn about their practices!

Also, organic goes on sale just like everything else. WF has some GREAT organic sales sometimes (organic kale 2 bunches for $3 is the last one I got!).

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katie March 6, 2011

these are great tips! even if you can’t buy in restaurant-bulk, it is usually cheaper to purchase online and in larger quantities. a lot of grocery stores now have bulk bins, too, and using those can help cut down on costs!

good luck with the chandelier!

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megan @ blackberries for jam March 6, 2011

Wonderful tips! I buy in bulk whenever I can, and it makes a huge difference! Another reason I love bulk food bins at the grocery store is that it allows you to try smaller quantities of things rather than shell out a ton of money for something you’re not sure you’re going to like or use. I try a lot of new grains that way!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

That is a great tip!

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Julie @ Shining From Within March 6, 2011

Great tips. I find it difficult to save money and still buy organic food. Thank u for the tips :). Those oats look amazing. Im on a real overnight oat kick lately too! Constantly experimenting. Looove them <3

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Alayna @ Thyme Bombe March 6, 2011

Thanks for this! Most people know that buying in bulk from a grocery store can be cheaper but I just always assumed that true wholesale was off limits to me because I don’t own a business. Thanks for the insider tips!

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Baking 'n' Books March 6, 2011

That seems like a lot of work!! Wow. I’d definitely need more storage space :)

I don’t even think they have CSA’s where I am? I love Farmer’s Markets, but surprisingly they can be pretty expensive too, so you have to be careful in general I guess.

I think I asked before – but is your Bakery in a separate location? Or is it in your home? Meaning you work from home? And do you have workers or just you?

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Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty March 6, 2011

We know where to come if no food is available!! :) I have been buying in bulk too and it’s SO much cheaper! I’ve finally switched over to dried beans over cans, and they taste so much better too!!

Great tips!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

haha yes we have enough food to last for years ;)

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Erika @ FoodFitnessFun March 6, 2011

Great post Angela! What a coincidence considering that my Mom and I were just talking about our “saving money on food” game plan last night. I’m going to email her the link to read! :-)

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Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 6, 2011

There are blogs out there that will coupon match for you, JUST for organic items! I save SO much on organic food by using coupons. Whole Foods lets you use a store coupon AND a manufacturer’s coupon, plus their sale price! It takes a bit of extra time but is totally worth it.

As for produce, the farmer’s market is where it’s at. If that’s not available, watch for sales. Organic produce DOES go on sale, even at WF, and sometimes they have awesome prices (2 bunches of organic kale for $3!).

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Carolyn @Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. March 6, 2011

What website is this??? Please share!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

yes im inetrested too! :)

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Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 6, 2011

http://www.organicdeals.com/ is great! Also try googling for blogs specific to your area. I have two St. Louis blogs that price match for local stores, and match coupons as well.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

thanks, will check it out!

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Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 6, 2011

This is a good one I use!

http://www.organicdeals.com/

I also using sale/coupon matching blogs specifically for my area, so try googling for your area too!

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kate@ahealthypassion March 6, 2011

Ahh Ive been on a pb chocolate kick lately and this just made me crave the combo even more, too bad i’m out of oats :(

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table March 6, 2011

Thanks for the tips. I know you probably go through items more quickly than I could – but do you ever worry about shelf-life/freshness?

Your breakfast may have pushed me over the edge to try out carob powder. Those oats look fantastic!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

Yes I do take into account shelf life! That is always a great idea because you don’t want to have to throw things out.

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat March 6, 2011

These are great tips Ange! I didn’t know about buying clubs so I’m going to investigate that now. I’ve never participated in a CSA before but I’m planning to join one in the spring/summer. I am also a huuuuge Bulk Barn buyer. :) Thanks for the ideas!

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Katy (The Singing Runner) March 6, 2011

Fantastic tips! While I may not need to buy THAT much in bulk, I should definitely start buying in bulk!

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jen @ taste life March 6, 2011

Those chocolate oats look amazing! And I can’t believe you have to deal with all those food bins! What’s your dream bulk food set up?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

Probably a storage room with pour-spout bins ;)

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Alaina March 6, 2011

I’m always trying to find ways to really save at the grocery store. We have a BJ’s wholesale club here in MA and they have some great products. Thank you for the great tips!

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staceyhealthylife March 6, 2011

I’m right on board with you. I use the jars also and buy my grains in bulk. I’m lucky to have Bob’s red mill warehouse a few miles from my house. So I get all of my stuff there.

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Amanda March 6, 2011

What great tips! And I love chocolate oats too!! :)

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Joyce @ Flowing to Fifty March 6, 2011

Great ideas. I’m a huge fan of Bulk Barn and am learning to cook beans from scratch. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them! I’ll browse your recipe page soon.

Good luck with the chandelier purchase. Home Depot and Lowe’s have a lot of really good options these days. Or you could try Elte, but you won’t save any money there….. :-)

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Holly @ Couch Potato Athlete March 6, 2011

I love the tips Angela — I need to look at CSAs in my area because most of what I buy is produce and the organic selection at my grocery store is not always the best.

I know you don’t eat meat, but Eric still does, right? Have you just shopped around for the best price on organic meats? Any tips there?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

He doesn’t eat meat in the house, unless he wants to BBQ in the summer. When he does buy it he buys organic, which comes at a price! he mostly has meat when he goes out to eat for lunch at work…probably a couple times a week.

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Allison @ Food For Healing March 6, 2011

i started organizing my bulk in nice little jars too, definiately looks a lot nicer in the cupboard!

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Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) March 6, 2011

These are all really great tips Ange. I don’t often shop in bulk as we have are only two people and then there’s always the space issue. I know that eventually I would use a giant tub of oats, but it might take us all year… I mostly buy dried fruit, grains & dried beans from the bulk bins. I think for those that don’t have access to wholesalers, bulk bins are the best solution. I really need to invest in some ball jars?! Right now I have bulk bin baggies coming out of my ears ;P

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Amy March 6, 2011

I totally know what you mean about finding a perfect chandelier.

I was looking for MONTHS, and finally found one at Lowe’s while we were on vacation in Vermont! I can’t wait to hang it up!

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Tina March 6, 2011

I’m very lucky-we have plenty of storage space in our house-I shop at Costco a lot to save. I have 3 kids and one’s a teenager, so there’s no danger of it going to waste. The only thing I wish I could find in bulk is cereal-my husband eats a ton!

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Ashley March 6, 2011

This post is so fantastic! I always wondered how you had so much of stuff to test out recipes constantly. I imagine the buckets get irritating, but it must be a lot easier to not have to shop as often.

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Robyn March 6, 2011

I’m not sure where you live, but it appears to be somewhere southern Ontario-ish (judging by your forecast for rain and the links you posted!) I spent forever shopping for a chandelier with our kitchen renovation, and finally found exactly what I was looking for a Multi-Luminaire. They’re a Quebec chain, but if you’re anywhere near Ottawa there is one just across the river in Gatineau. They are reasonably priced, and have much more modern-style selection.
Good Luck!

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Ari @ TheDiVa DiSh March 6, 2011

Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s true that some people are put off by the price tag of organic food and what not, but there are def ways around it…and in the end its worth it! :)

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Alex @ Healing Beauty March 6, 2011

Thank you for sharing such great tips! I’m just now starting to buy foods from the bulk bins, which I’ve noticed is cheaper!

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Amber K March 6, 2011

I don’t go through food fast enough to truly buy in bulk, but I do buy what I can. Great tips!

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin March 6, 2011

I love Bulk Barn! I’ve been able to save SO much money by buying things like grains and flours there instead of the expensive packaged kind.

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lauren @ spiced plate March 6, 2011

this is inspiring me to take a picture of my pantry and all of the ball jars it contains filled with bulk goodies. We go to the local healthfood store or WF, and stock up when a sale is going on. We’ve contemplated ordering in bulk from a co-op, as one just started up in our town, but it seems harder to pay a larger sum upfront than little by little, even though the larger sum would save us in the long run.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

I agree that it is tough the start up, but over time you need less and less!

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Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day March 6, 2011

Great tips! You certainly get better deals in bulk than I can find in my neck of the woods. I used to buy a lot more bulk items, but now it’s just me and I don’t have a lot of space. When I do buy in bulk , I go in on a larger order with friends.

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Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn March 6, 2011

I wish we had places like Bulk Barn around here! Unforch I don’t, but my grocery store and natural food stores have GREAT bulk sections! Thanks for all of the tips, girl!

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Namaste Gurl March 6, 2011

So true– buying in bulk and locally is the best way to save money while still buying organic and seasonal. My favorite trick is just bringing my jars to the bulk bins, getting the tare weight, and filling up what I need for the week!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

that is a great tip! I always wondered if you could do that.

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Sabina March 6, 2011

Some places will let you. It’s best to ask first. I know that Bulk Barn has a strict no-outside-containers rule.

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Maggie(livingfoodjunkie) March 6, 2011

Wonderful post! I do believe bulk is the money saver, that and farmer’s markets like you mentioned. I also check local grocery stores for mark down sales, around here it seems they do that in the morning or evening :) Great tips!

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Casey @ Insatiably Healthy March 6, 2011

Loved this post! I’ve been Bulk Aisle Obsessed this year but now I’m going to start researching wholesalers
Thanks Angela!

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Celine Liv March 6, 2011

Hello Angela! Greetings from New York CIty!!!!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog and can def relate to your journey. I myself used to be so wrapped up in work, grad school, trying to balance professional and personal life and was starving myself to stay thin. Now I eat clean, exercise regularly and eat for energy.

Thank you for the insider tips! I have been buying organic since last year and although organic food tastes sooo much better and is good for my health, teh grocery bills do add up very quickly!

Your recipes are a huge help since I am trying to incorporate home cooked /bakes meals/goodies into my diet.

I recently tried your itty bitty carrot cake cookie bites and OMG they are AMAZING! I will be baking my 3rd batch today ( waiting for raisins to plump up for another hr or so ). They have become a great alternatrive to my morning oatmeal, I also eat them as a mid-morning snack ;-) Feel free to check it out on my blog where I referenced your wonderful blog :-) http://glitteratist.blogspot.com/2011/02/vegan-itty-bitty-carrot-cake-cookies.html

Oh, I voted for you! Best of luck, I hope you win!!!

The overnight oats look delicious! One question though, do you warm it up before you eat it?

Best,

Celine Liv / Glitteratist

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

Thanks Celine for your kind words! That is so nice to hear that you are enjoying the recipes and making lots of changes in your life! I do not heat up the overnight oats- just eat them cold- but I have heard that occasionally some people will warm them up a bit during the winter. It it totally up to you!
Once the weather gets warmer, you gotta try my parfaits- they are a great way to start the day in the warmer months: http://ohsheglows.com/2010/06/13/cherry-chocolate-bomb-vegan-overnight-oats/ I can’t wait!

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Celine Liv March 6, 2011

You’re most welcome! The parfait looks AMAZING! i can’t wait to try it.
I will be making your baked dijon salmon this week, can’t wait!
I am so glad I found your blog :-)
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

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Andrea @ Vegvacious March 6, 2011

Thanks for all the great tips!! I don’t have a ton of room for storing items, but there are some things I use alot of that would make it worthwhile. We have a home delivery service that we buy most of our produce through that is all organic. I buy for 2 – 3 weeks at a time and spend less than I was at the grocery store on non-organic produce. I also love farmer markets – can’t wait for Spring!

…and with your recipe, you had me a “Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup….”!!! love it, have to try it!

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