July 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75

For us Torontonians, no trip to Buffalo, New York is complete with a stop at a select few retailers. One such location is Trader Joe’s. Today, I’m sharing our recent Trader Joe’s grocery haul - what we bought for under $75!

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75

Before leaving for our trip to Buffalo, I took to the wonderful world wide web and googled, “what to buy at Trader Joe’s”. I was instantly inundated with hundreds of product recommendations. Turns out, there are entire blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. dedicated to this store. It’s insane. And also, insanely helpful!

From these sites, and my question put out to you on my Instagram stories, I compiled my list. Here is what we actually came home with.

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75

Unexpected Cheddar Cheese - $3.99
This inexpensive cheddar cheese popped up on all of the “must buy at Trader Joe’s” lists. It is the perfect addition to a charcuterie board, or just eaten on its own or with crackers. Think cheddar meets parmesan. At first bite, it tastes like an aged Cheddar. Then, the smooth creaminess gives way to a tangy flavour and slightly crumbly texture, a subtle hint of salt crystallization, like an aged Parmesan. 

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip - $2.99
Raise your hands if you love dips! Trader Joe’s had a variety of signature dips in the refrigerated section, but we opted for just these two. They were eaten with tortilla chips and TJ’s ridge cut salt and pepper chips (below). 

Caramelized Onion Dip - $2.99
Of the two dips we bought, this was definitely my favourite! Also eaten with tortilla chips and TJ’s ridge cut salt and pepper chips (below). 

Trader Joe's Caramelized Onion Dip

Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce - $2.49
If you look in our fridge, it’s filled with condiments. What’s one more?! We have yet to try this, but I imagine it would be good on sausages, sandwiches and even in a homemade salad dressing.

Chili Onion Crunch - $3.99
We have yet to try this new condiment, but I bet it would be good on pasta, in a salad dressing or as a marinade for meat.

Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers - $2.29
While I was hesitant at first when Steve picked these off the shelf, I now wish we had of bought more than one box! For all of you blue cheese lovers, these taste exactly like the name suggests and are just as tasty to eat on their own as they are paired with cheese or meat. Would be a great addition to a charcuterie board.

Ridge Cut Salt & Pepper Potato Chips - $2.99
No explanation needed.

Chile Lime Blend Spice - $1.99
Trader Joe’s has some really unique products in the spice aisle, and this is one that I bought on my very first trip to TJ in Chicago. I put it on watermelon, but have also heard it’s good on pineapple and for rimming margarita and Caesar glasses. The perfect combo of salt and sweet, with a touch of smokey spice.

Everything But the Bagel Spice - $1.99 (x2 = $3.98)
Another good find in the spice aisle, this tastes exactly how it sounds. This seasoning is good on avocado toast, sandwiches and BBQ chicken. 

Trader Joe's Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Batter

Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Batter - $3.69
This one was for my mother-in-law, so we didn’t actually get to try it. But, like other speculoos, is probably delicious!

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (6 pack) - $11.49
This beer is not a Trader Joe’s brand, but it is one of our favourite IPAs. Whenever we’re in the States, we always pick up a 6-pack. It doesn’t last long in the fridge. 

Boatswain American IPA (6 pack) - $4.99
As IPA lovers, we’re always up for trying new ones. Unlike Dogfish Head, this is a Trader Joe’s brand beer. Also, not my favourite. The price was right though, so we’re glad we tried it.

Trader Joe's Boatswain American IPA

Popcorn in a Pickle - $1.99
I’m a salty person, so this popcorn was right up my alley. Very addictive!

Scandinavian Swimmers Gummy Candy - $2.99
Morley is a big fan of gummy candies, and because of that, they are the perfect bribe treat (#momtruth). Each unique shape has it’s own distinct and delicious flavour - the orange rockfish are orange-flavoured, the blue dolphins taste like huckleberry, the yellow sea horses are mango-peach and the red lobsters are berry. And if you’re curious, Trader Joe’s recently posted a video on their IG about how they are made. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bz9YbYEnqD2/

Bamba Peanut Snacks - $0.99
This popped up on many different lists when I googled “what to buy at Trader Joe’s”, and for good reason. One, this snack is a great price and two, they’re both adult and kiddo-friendly. Think a peanut butter-flavoured cheesy (minus the cheese) that melts in your mouth. There’s no wonder our littlest loves them so much. 

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - $4.29
On my one other trip to Trader Joe’s in Chicago, this was in my haul. They are a bite-sized piece of delicious. So, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab them again on this trip. 

Enrich Facial Moisturizer (4 oz.) - $3.99
This moisturizer (with SPF 15) was on many of the must-buy lists I came across. And at under $5, I had to give it a try. I’ve only been using it for a few days, but do like the way it feels on my skin after putting it on. It’s light-weight and fragrance-free. While it can’t be a substitute for a normal facial sunscreen because of the low SPF, it will do a good job at keeping your face moisturized. 

Trader Joe's Enrich Facial Moisturizer

Dark Roast Ground Joe Coffee (14 oz.) - $3.99
When it comes to coffee products, Trader Joe’s has a large selection. From cold brew to ground coffee, there are quite a few options to choose from to get your caffeine boost. We were running low on coffee at home, so we picked up a bag of the dark roast (the darker, the better in our house). It was comparable to other grocery store brands, and at $4 a bag, I would definitely buy it again.

Organic Apple Strawberry Fruit Wrap - $0.49 (x2 = $0.98)
This fruit wrap is like fruit leather found in the grocery store, and full of flavour. The perfect toddler snack. Also comes in Apple Blueberry, Apple Raspberry, Apple Banana and Apple Wild Berry.

Apple + Mango Fruit Bar - $0.99
The fruit bars are similar to fruit wraps, but thicker. Another perfect toddler snack. They are full of flavour, and also gluten free. Also comes in Apple Coconut, Apple Strawberry and Apple Banana.

Trader Joe's Fruit Bars

Just a Handful of Olives - $0.99 (x2 = $1.98)
Our resident olive monster Morley was tasked with picking out her own snack. When she saw these individual bags of olives, she thought they were “so cute” (her words, not mine). They contain about 15 small pitted buttery green olives, and are the perfect addition to a lunch bag. Again, I wish we had of bought more.

Trader Joe's Just a Handful of Olives

Beef Jerky Strips Dog Treats - $1.99
Morley is always thinking of her furry friends Lola and Titus (my parents’ chihuahuas). She picked up a bag of these treats for our camping trip, and they loved them. Since they are senior dogs, they have a hard time eating the harder jerky treats. These ones were just soft enough for them to mow down.

Green Tea Matcha - $0.99
I’m not a fan of matcha, but my sister is, so this one was for her. Her feedback was that it was really good. It comes in a grab-n-go 245mL can.

Total Spend (before tax): $73.04 

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75

Since we made the trip at the start of our recent visit to Buffalo, we strayed from the refrigerated and freezer items. If we had of stopped on our way home, I’m sure our list would have been a lot longer (and closer to $100). But, we’ll save that for the next visit.

Morley was also a big fan. Guys, they have mini grocery carts! While it was kind of dangerous because she started shopping for herself, it did make the experience fun for her. Now if only other grocery stores would get mini shopping carts…

Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75

All I can say is that I’m glad the nearest Trader Joe’s is almost 2 hours away, or our grocery bills would probably be a lot higher. And that grocery budgeting we’ve been trying so hard to stick to, would be right out the window.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? What are your favourite items? I’d love to hear!

*Disclaimer: Prices may change based on location, time of year, etc. 


Trader Joe's Grocery Shopping Haul: How We Spent $75


July 22, 2019

48 Hours of Family-Friendly Fun in Buffalo, New York

When you think of Buffalo, New York, what comes to mind?

I’ll admit, for the longest time I associated it with two things - the airport and shopping.

Only 2 hours from Toronto, Buffalo is often the destination for just that - cheaper flights out of the Buffalo airport and shopping and dining that you can’t find in Canada (Target, Trader Joe’s, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, to name a few).

BUT, let me tell you - as we discovered on our recent 48 hours in the city, there is SO MUCH MORE to see and do!

Bison statue Canalside Buffalo New York

Earlier this summer, Visit Buffalo Niagara reached out and invited our little family for a two night stay to explore all of the family fun the city has to offer. Of course, we couldn’t wait to go!

So, what did we get up to?

Check out our itinerary below to plan your own family adventure in Buffalo, New York!


We left Toronto around 11:00am, after the morning rush. With a bit of traffic at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge in Niagara Falls, the drive took us just over 2 hours. Before our first stop, we did have to make a token pitstop at Trader Joe’s to stock up on some yummy snacks for the whole family. (Toddlers run on snacks.)

Our first stop was to the Buffalo Zoo, for a self-guided tour. This Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility (meaning it maintains the highest standards in animal care, education and conservation), is the only place in town to observe a wide variety of exotic and domestic animals year-round in naturalistic habitats. Think polar bears, lions, giraffes, rhinos, gorillas and more! The Zoo is situated in Delaware Park, which is located in a residential neighbourhood. Slightly jealous that these people can look out their front window every morning and see giraffes and rhinos. 

My favourite part of the Zoo was easily Arctic Edge, which opened in 2015 and is home to the polar bears, lynx, bald eagle and Arctic fox. I could sit and watch the polar bears for hours. (Fun fact, when I worked at the Alaska Zoo, we cared for an orphaned polar bear cub named Kali that left us to be a partner for Luna at the Buffalo Zoo. He now lives at the St Louis Zoo.) If you were to ask Morley, her favourite animal to see was the zebra because "it was walking in the sun". And Berkley got to practice her new word, calling every animal that walked on all fours a "dog dog". 

Location: 300 Parkside Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214

Buffalo Zoo map
feeding the birds at the Buffalo Zoo
sea lion underwater viewing at Buffalo Zoo
kids looking at gorillas at Buffalo Zoo

After our visit to the Zoo, it was time to check in to our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Buffalo Downtown, located (as the name suggests), downtown Buffalo just minutes from great restaurants and attractions. 

The hotel is a short walk to the Buffalo Metro Rail. This public transit system consists of a single, 6.4-mile (10.3 km) long light rail line that runs for most of the length of Main Street from the KeyBank Centre at the waterfront, north to the University of Buffalo. The great thing about this transit system is that travel is free on the above ground portion of the system.

Location: 220 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202

After checking in and resting our feet for a few minutes, it was off to dinner at Big Ditch Brewing Company, just a few blocks from the hotel. This craft beer microbrewery is dedicated to providing quality, delicious, innovative and drinkable craft beer for the Buffalo area. Their beer is so good they won New York State’s Best Craft Brewery aware at TAP Festival in 2016. If you love beers on the hoppier side (which we do), than you’ll love Big Ditch. My favourite was the FC (Fantastically Crushable), a Session Wheat IPA (ABV 4.1%) brewed in collaboration with FC Buffalo, Buffalo's professional soccer team. Steve’s favourite was Deep Cut, a Double IPA (ABV 8.2%). This beer won a gold medal in the Strong IPA category at the TAP NY craft beer festival in 2017. Besides their tasty beer and great atmosphere, they also have a delicious food menu with a variety of American-style, pub-inspired food. 

Location: 55 East Huron Street, Buffalo, NY 14203

Buffalo's Big Ditch Brewing Company beer flight


We were up bright and early, and filled our bellies with a delicious complimentary breakfast at the hotel before heading out for another fun-filled day. Their breakfast was one of the better complimentary hotel breakfasts I’ve had - make your own waffles, smoothies, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal and a hot bar with eggs and sausage. A big shout out to Connie, the employee working the breakfast bar. She went above and beyond, offering to watch the girls so that Steve and I could get everyone something to eat (and a hot coffee for ourselves). 

Our first stop of the day was the NEW Explore & More - The Ralph C Wilson, Jr Children’s Museum, located on the Buffalo waterfront. From the hotel, we were able to get there (for FREE) by riding the Metro Rail just a few stops south. All four of us were in awe over this place, and could have easily spent the majority of the day there (if time allowed). Unlike a traditional museum, Explore & More has built an environment for creative play and learning that’s one-of-a-kind as every child who walks through the door. They aim to provide the best-in-class play experiences where all children, families and the community can explore, learn and develop together. The different child-led play stations encourage kids to use their imaginations - Morley had the chance to be a doctor and a (construction) “worker”. But her favourite part was Sketch Town - where she had the chance to draw a car and see it come to life on a big screen. Such a cool technology!

Location: 130 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

outside of Explore & More, Buffalo New York
Explore & More Buffalo New York
Explore & More Buffalo New York

After dragging the girls out of the museum (literally, it was a struggle), we took a walk along Canalside before lunch. Canalside is the jewel in Queen City’s crown. The result of over $300 million in new development, the area hosts over 1,000 annual events. I would love to go back in the winter to check out Ice at Canalside, a 35,000 square foot rink on the recreated Erie Canal that features skating, curling, ice hockey and ice bikes. The waterfront is also home to America’s largest inland Naval park, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. Also a place we have added to our list for next time.

Location: 44 Prime Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

Buffalo Metro Rail light rail transit

After hopping back on the Metro Rail, and then walking a few blocks north, we made our way to Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar for lunch - home of the original Buffalo wings. This is where the chicken wing reportedly started thanks to a combination of left over chicken, hot sauce and a group of kids who wanted some late night eats. It’s been over 50 years, and this restaurant hasn’t slowed down. It is also one of the 12 stops on the “Buffalo Wing Trail”. We walked out of there with satisfied bellies after sampling the mild (kid-approved), medium and hot wings, as well as their famous chicken wing soup. So good!

Location: 1047 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14209

Frank and Terresa's Anchor Bar Buffalo New York

Before an afternoon siesta, we took a trip down to the lake shore to work off some of the girl’s energy. We stopped at the state-of-the-art playground in Buffalo Harbor State Park. Boasting beautiful views of Lake Erie, the park is home to a 1,000 slip marina, a restaurant, boat launches, a beach and more. The park is also adjacent to Tifft Nature Preserve, a great place to go for a hike and view local wildlife. 

Location: 1111 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo, NY 14203

After running around at the playground, we decided to go back to the hotel to take a break from the heat before dinner.

Every Tuesday night from May to October, Larkin Square plays host to over 30 area food trucks, live music and more. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay long as the girls were getting a bit squarely (and we were still quite full from our wings at lunch), but could easily tell Food Truck Tuesday is definitely our type of scene. With Morley in charge of picking dinner, we settled on a delicious Mac & Cheese, followed by beers at Flying Bison Brewing Company, just down the street. Steve tried their Rusty Chain, a medium bodied Vienna-style amber beer (ABV 5.2%), and the #1 best selling local craft beer in Buffalo. I went for a pint of the Beer Garden Party, a citrus wheat ale (ABV 5.4%). Before we called it a night, we also stopped at Buffalo Distilling Company, makers of One Foot Cock(TM) Spirits (Bourbon, Vodka, Brandy, Moonshine and Krupnik), for a delicious cocktail. They are a true New York State Farm Distillery - 100% local grain to glass!

Larkin Square Location: 745 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210
Flying Bison Brewing Company Location: 840 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210
Buffalo Distilling Company Location: 860 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210

Larkin Square Food Truck Tuesday, Buffalo New York


After packing up and eating a quick breakfast, the last stop on our adventure in Buffalo was the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The tri-domed glass, wood and steel building was built in the late 1890s, and at the time, was one of the largest public greenhouses in the country. Today, they are on a mission to inspire curiosity and connect people to the natural world through its historic living museum. And as a nature nerd myself, I could definitely appreciate wandering through the beautiful indoor gardens filled with flora from around the world. 

Location: 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14218

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens building
Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens koi pond

And with that, our time in Buffalo had come to an end and it was time to head back across the border and home to Toronto. 

Our 48 hours in the Queen City definitely opened our eyes to the family-friendly fun that upstate New York has to offer. However, I know we only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in Buffalo. Guess we'll just have to plan a trip back!

Want to see more? Check out my Story Hightlight --> #intheBUF on Instagram

Have you been to Buffalo, New York? What was your favourite part? I’d love to hear!

*Disclaimer: This trip was in partnership with Visit Buffalo Niagara and their wonderful partners. All opinions are 100% that of To & Fro.


What to see and do in 48 hours in Buffalo, New York


July 5, 2019

The Battle of the Bottle: Our Feeding Story

From the day they were born, our girls have been very different. From the colour of their hair, to their demeanour and everything in between, they are almost complete opposites.

how to get baby to take a bottle

This is especially true when it comes to feeding. 

From early on, our oldest was formula fed. And our youngest? At 11 months, is currently still being breast fed. I can count the number of times she's taken a bottle on two hands. The number of times it being formula, even less. The number of times I have been away from her and not nursed her, even less than that. So very different than my oldest. 

But, that all is about to change. As the end of my maternity leave quickly approaches, it’s time to start transitioning her off the boob and onto a bottle. And since I didn’t have to do it with my first, it gives me anxiety just thinking about it. BUT, it must be done. 

Today, I’m sharing our family’s feeding story - or, more appropriately, our “battle of the bottle”.

how to get baby to take a bottle

Before we get started, I think it’s important that I start at the very beginning, and share our breastfeeding journey to date (read more, here). It hasn’t always been smooth.

When we left the hospital with Morley back in 2016, I felt nothing but confidence. At least, as much confidence as a new parent could have. However, shortly after bringing baby home, I started to struggle. Breastfeeding became a struggle, and baby wasn’t gaining enough weight to make our family doctor happy. The next day, we made an appointment with the hospital’s lactation consultation. Minutes after stepping through the door, all of the confidence that I originally had flew out the window. “You’re doing it wrong” and “Try harder” are not words a new parent wants to hear. A new parent wants support, and that’s not what I was getting. I left the hospital feeling absolutely defeated - like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t feed my baby “like nature intended”.

After shedding many tears, I pulled myself together and realized fed was best. 

We turned to formula. She instantly took to the bottle and pretty soon after was at the top of the charts for a baby her age. This route also allowed dad to take some of the midnight feeding shifts and allow me to rest. Amen to sleep. 

And then, two and a half years later, little sister Berkley was born.

how to get baby to take a bottle

Like Morley, I thought her taking a bottle would be a walk in the park. How different could they be?

The answer? Different. Very different. Unlike her big sister, Berkley did not instantly take to the bottle. 

Unlike her big sister, Berkley was born on a weekday when the hospital offered a morning breastfeeding class. Having nothing but time while waiting to be discharged from the hospital, we went to the class. Why not, we thought. All I can say is that if that kind of support had been available when Morley was born, there’s a strong chance that I wouldn’t have felt the way I did.

Berkley instantly took to the boob.

how to get baby to take a bottle

Now that Berkley is almost 11 months old, and I’m starting to think about going back to  work and sending her to daycare, it’s time to start transitioning her off the boob and onto the bottle.

For 10 plus months, she has been used to the comfort of being breast fed, something taking a bottle lacks for her. I knew the transition would not be a walk in the park. 

So, how are we making out? Well, let me just say, we’ve still got some work to do before the end of August rolls around…

BUT, we have made progress. 

One thing that’s helped are the Philips Avent products we use. During her meals, she typically drinks water from a Philips Avent Spout Cup. Since we would be giving her a Philips Avent Natural bottle at night, one thing I did was switch out the spout cup nipple with the natural bottle nipple so that she would get used to it. These BPA-free bottles have an ergonomic shape for maximum comfort, making them easy to hold and grip in any direction. The ultra soft nipple more closely resembles the breast, making an easier transition from breast to bottle. Luckily, she had no problem drinking her water from the sippy cup with a bottle nipple. I thought it would be smooth sailing from there.

But then I remembered, there was the issue of my supply. Having introduced food months before, my milk supply has decreased and I stopped pumping months before. The freezer stash had been depleted. So, we turned to formula. But, she refused to drink it. So, with guidance from our family doctor, we introduced whole milk at 10 months. Now, that’s a different story. 

how to get baby to take a bottle

She isn’t 100% hooked on drinking whole milk from a bottle, but like I said, it is still a work in progress. The clock is a ticking though, and if I’ve learned anything from baby number 2 it’s that time flies and the end of August will be here before we know it. That battle of the bottle has got to end at some point.

So moral of this story? ALL kids are different - in shape, in size, in demeanour and even, in the way they feed.

My advice to new mamas? YOU do YOU. Do what feels best for you, best for your babe and best for your family. 

But it’s also good to have some trusted tools, like Philips Avent, in your back pocket. 

What are your tips for getting baby on the bottle? I’d love to hear!

You can find more about our parenting adventures AND our favourite Philips Avent products, here:

*Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Philips Avent. I received products and/or compensation in exchange for this post. All opinions and advice shares are 100% that of To & Fro.


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