Driscoll’s Advisory Panel- Save money on fruit!

Original File Name: 20_waterfall_ 42433.tifWe eat a lot of berries, especially when they are on sale. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered the Driscoll Advisory Panel!

It’s quick and easy to join. Sign up here, and after you enjoy a package of Driscoll berries, just visit the website and enter the traceability code or scan the QR code at the bottom on the carton to take the survey.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.13.58 PMYou’ll earn coupon with each survey you take! Sign up and you’ll automatically score a .50/1 coupon!

Rewards Club members enjoy:
-Special offers & a birthday gift
-Get access to sweepstakes & contests
-New & exclusive recipes, health & wellness tips, and more
-A monthly e-newsletter

 

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With all of the berry sales coming up, you’ll find tons of chances to buy Driscoll Berries! You’ll be taking surveys and earning coupons in no time!

This week, Ralphs has Strawberries for $1.88- after the .50/1 coupon you can print after you sign up that’s only $1.38 per pound- that’s a good deal. And if you are an ORGANIC eater- Rejoice! These codes are on Driscoll’s Organic berries too! I’ll be posting a recipe featuring berries this weekend!

It’s Yum Time- Easy Frittata!

Whomever coined the term “morning sickness” either had never been pregnant or couldn’t tell time. I’ve been really nauseous lately all the time, so I’ve been cooking a lot of dinners that I haven’t been eating. Most of my evening meals have comprised of cold cereal and a splash of whole milk.

However, I made an awesome, easy Frittata last night that smelled so good, I actually ate about a quarter of it.

I love making Frittatas. They are super easy to make, and you can use basically anything in your kitchen. Veggies, cheese, and protein of any type. Frittatas are gluten free, and can be made vegetarian (but not vegan, since they do have eggs as a major ingredient).

Here is the recipe that I cobbled together. I didn’t write anything down, I just rummaged through the fridge and pulled out stuff that looked good together. I chose the yellow potatoes because when they cook, they have a rich, creamy texture without adding tons of empty calories (Potatoes are high in potassium, which his mama needs to keep the charlie horses at bay).

Easy Frittata (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Milk (use whatever kind you normally use- soy, cow’s milk, whatever)
  • 1/2 lb turkey sausage (or your fav. breakfast sausage)
  • 2 T. butter, divided
  • 8-10 small yellow potatoes, chopped into small pieces (you can leave the skin on)
  • 1 16oz bag of peppers and onions
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (If you are watching calories, opt for a low cal. cheese)
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • Olde Westport’s Gold Coast Garlic Shake or your favorite garlic powder to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a large oven proof skillet, cook sausage per package directions. Once sausage is cooke, remove from the pan, chop into bite size pieces and set aside (You can also use pre-cooked sausage- just heat it up and cut into bite sized pieces).
  4. Deglaze the pan with a scant 1/4 c. water. scrape the yummy brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the potatoes and 1 T butter. Cook the potatoes on medium/low until the potatoes are “al dente”.
  6. Add the remaining butter, garlic, and the onions/peppers. Continue to cook on medium heat until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat, add the sausage back into the pan.
  8. Pour the reserved egg mixture over the veggies, and sprinkle with a touch of garlic powder (if desired).
  9. Top with the chopped tomatoes and cheese
  10. Place the entire oven proof skillet in the oven, bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
  11. Serve right away with a small green salad or with fruit. I love frittata topped with fresh salsa and a little plain greek yogurt or sour cream.

And here are some shots before we demolished it. If you can’t eat it all in one meal, you can always stash the leftover in the fridge and eat it cold, or re-heat it in the microwave. It’s good for breakfast too!

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Notice all the yummy veggies!!

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When being frugal isn’t easy…

"Hot Diggity Dog! .25 off a 48 pack of Toilet Paper!" Courtesy : thegraphicsfairy.com
“Hot Diggity Dog! .25 off a 48 pack of Toilet Paper!” Courtesy : thegraphicsfairy.com

Being Frugal ain’t easy sometimes, kids. I won’t lie.

It’s not always carts of free groceries, double coupons, and mail boxes fulla rebate checks.

Sometimes it’s getting stuck with a cart full of free food that’s yucky (once I bought a bunch of dinner kits that were free after coupon, but they tasted like what I imagine dog food resembles), a newspaper full of .35 off a huge package of already very expensive toilet paper, and an empty mail box (or a mailbox full of bills-Even Worse!).

These are all experiences that every couponer and frugal person goes through.

How do I keep my head up during the hard times were it seems like no matter how I try, money is just pouring out of my hands, and I can’t get a handle on it?

  1. This too shall pass! It’s hard to believe, but everyone goes through it. Even frugal folks like me!
  2. Count your blessings. And while you’re at it, inventory your pantry, fridge, and other stockpiles. Know what you’ve got on hand, and find ways to use up what you’ve got- That will help you get spending under control.
  3. Make a plan. How can you: Repair, upcycle, use up or do without? Don’t forget local community resources like freecycle, Craigslist free section, and your local branch of the Buy Nothing Project to help you find what you need.
  4. Forget about the Joneses.  Everyone wants what’s new, bigger, better, faster. Get out of that mindset. Forget about what your friends and neighbors have, and focus on what matters. Family, friends, and being a good person (seriously!). If you ever find yourself thinking “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” maybe it’s time to re-assess priorities.
  5. Don’t spend money. For some people, shopping is catharsis. Buying new things makes you feel new, but at the end of the day, how did all this stuff get paid for? If you gotta get out and shop, check out a local thrift store. Support a charity and save some money.

How do you keep your head above water when living the frugal life gets hard?

 

Delectable Tuesday: Quinoa tri-color pepper salad

This is a super yummy salad that is easy to prepare and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. I used green red and orange peppers but feel free to use whatever color bell peppers you can find in your local supermarket.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa ( I used red quinoa)
  • 2 cups water or broth, your choice
  • 3 bell peppers, cleaned and diced
  • 1/4 cup oil, your choice (I used corn oil)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar, you choice (I used pomegranate, but balsamic would be good too)
  • 1/4 cup stone ground mustard
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • (optional 1/4 c. feta or goat cheese crumbled)

Directions:

  1. Cook quinoa in water or broth as indicated on package directions.
  2. Once quinoa is cooked refrigerate until cool.
  3. In a large bowl mix cooked chilled quinoa and bell peppers set aside.
  4. In a small bowl mix oil, vinegar, and mustard until combined.
  5. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir to combine. Taste and salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Store in refrigerator for at least four hours prior to serving.

Delicious as a side dish or top a green salad with this mixture to make a large entree salad.

Because of this salad is a vegan (sans cheese, of course), vegetarian, and gluten free it is a great option for a potluck with friends or family.

This recipe makes six side dish servings or three main dish servings

DIY: Stuff Animal Bean Bag Chair

Lil’ Man has a lot of stuffed animals. He’s got some in a hammock like this one, but it’s not enough space.

IMG_1812-1024x757Witness the 45 gallon Sterilite tote on wheel crammed full. Now We’ve weeded out the ones he doesn’t play with or like, but there are still a lot.

I’ve been looking online for better storage methods, and I came upon a few sites suggesting a “bean bag” chair.  You can buy a bean bag chair cover for about $20, or if you’ve got a little craftiness in you, you can make one of your own for a lot less.

Basically you are making a large drawstring pouch.

All you need is:

  • 3 yards of 60 inch wide fabric or a twin sized duvet cover (scour thrift shops)
  • 3 yards 1 inch wide(or wider) grossgrain ribbon
  • Pins, scissors, sewing machine, thread

IMG_1809-1024x764I used a queen  sized duvet cover that I found at Amvets. I washed it and turned it inside out. I trimmed it down to 86(width) x60 (length). I kept the top with the snaps (the 86 inch side), and one adjoining side.

 

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If you are using fabric, fold the fabric in half, the long skinny way, so the selvedges (that’s the edges that are already finished-sometimes they have writing on them) are at the top  and  bottom of what will become the bag.

Now the the bag is sewn together, fold over the top and stitch it down. This is called a casing. You’ll need to leave a gap of about 1 inch, so that you can thread the ribbon through the casing.

Here is what the casing looks like on the other one I made:

Because my duvet already had a finished top, I snipped little holes in the top casing and threaded my ribbon through, using the safety pin. Attach the ribbon to your safety pin and guide through the casing.

Then, I turned it right side out, stuffed it full of friends,  pulled the drawstring tight, and it was ready to be enjoyed as a bean bag chair in Lil’Man’s room in a corner with some books.

IMG_1817-1024x764As you can see, Woody and Salmon Fish are kicking back.

There are tons of tutorials. Many call for a piece of mesh to be sewn in, but it’s a PITA to sew down (it moves even when pinned down), so I opted not to do that. and really, if you need to get into it, just open the drawstring and start fishing for toys!

You can also use an old top sheet in whatever size you have, just cut it down to fit. Our toy bag chair is large because of all of the toys Lil’ Man has, but if you’ve got less, feel free to make the bag smaller. Conversely, if you have more, make it bigger!

Free stuff!

One of the ways that I stretch our grocery budget is by keeping my eyes out for items that are free after coupons and store sales.

Some companies make it a little easier by offering a weekly freebie. Now sometimes the freebie is something you’re family will eat, and sometimes… Well, sometimes it’s not. Like this week.

Ralphs (or Kroger, depending on where you live) offers a free item each Friday. You simply go to Ralphs.com, log onto your ralphs account, load the coupon to your ralphs card and redeem the coupon within 2 weeks.  This week it’s:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 8.44.57 AMBlergh. If you need Easter Basket filler, or have a crazy sweet tooth, this might be perfect for you. I however, will pass.

The other weekly freebie is from Savingstar. It’s a Smartphone app that gives you cash back for buying specific items. You can use coupons with Savingstar to double dip (or in laymen’s terms save TWICE). Check the app, add the items you want, shop at one of the stores Savingstar works with (there is a list on their website), then come home and upload a photo of your items UPC and receipt. When you reach $10.00 in savings in your account you can opt for a paypal payout or buy gift cards (like Subway, iTunes, or Starbucks to name just a few). Savingstar doesn’t have a lot of food we eat, but it’s nice to earn a little extra cash back whenever we can.

Each week, also on Friday, Savingstar has a 100% cashback offer (which means it’s free after rebate!). This week, it’s:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 8.50.17 AM1.61 oz. Almond Joy® Milk Chocolate Coconut & Almonds OR 1.75 oz. Mounds® Coconut Filled Dark Chocolate candy bar.

 

For either weekly freebie, it’s usually something with a value of $2.00 or less. It’s a marketing technique to get you into the store to buy other stuff. BUT- you don’t have to. Be strong!

If you are looking for other free stuff, I like the following sites: Freestufftimes.com and  MySavings. There are a lot of sites that offer free samples, so keep your eyes out! I like to order free samples of new products because most of the time they come with high value coupons. Sample sized toiletries are also great for traveling, camping, or making blessing bags (which I will post about later).

Backyard Fruit: Helping Others!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving around much of Southern California, there is one constant: Backyard fruit trees DRIPPING with unpicked fruit, and even more trees with piles of dropped and rotting fruit under the trees. That really makes me upset. WHY?

There are 16 million hungry kids in the US. I heard a statistic on the radio the other day that 1 in 4 kids in the US don’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies! If you have backyard fruit trees or gardens that are out of control with more produce that you and your family can eat, here are a few ways you can help others in need:

  • Contact your local church and see if they offer a food pantry. If so, take a box of produce from your trees/garden over to share with those in need.
  • Contact your local food bank and see if they accept home grown fruit. Some do, some do not.
  • There are several organizations across the US that will come to you, pick your fruit and donate it. Food ForwardVillage Harvest are just two.
  • There are websites where you can register your trees and share your produce with others. Falling Fruit is just one.
  • Post on your local freecycle or buy nothing project group. I know around here there are many neighbors who would love to help you pick and eat your fruit.  Recently there was an older lady who had fruit trees and she couldn’t keep up with the harvesting, so she was looking for someone who could help her pick fruit. They were welcome to take as much as they could eat, as long as they picked 2 lbs of fruit for her. That sounds like a great deal to me!
  • Here is a crazy idea- Offer some to your friends and neighbors!

Saving time and money with meal planning!

One way to keep on the frugal track is to meal plan.  If you’ve never meal planned before, it can seem daunting. Here are just a few tips to get started.

  1. Inventory your pantry, freezer, and fridge. I use these worksheets. I keep them in plastic sheaths taped to the fridge and inside the cupboard. That way you know what you’ve got on hand without having to dig. I update them every week.
  2. Check out your favorite grocery stores weekly circular online before you hit the market. You may find that chicken is on sale that week- in that case, plan to cook more dishes that involve chicken. To save the most amount of money, eat what is in season and what is on sale!
  3. Make a list of the types of dishes that your family already enjoys. Make a list of the ingredients for each recipe. Check off the ingredients you already have on hand.
  4. Gather up some recipes that you’ve wanted to try for a while. Make a list of the ingredients the recipes call for that you don’t have on hand. I try to add in one new recipe each week.
  5. Decide what you want to cook for dinner each night (based on what’s on sale, recipes your family likes, and maybe 1-2 recipes that you’d like to try that are new to you). I try to have one night where we eat up leftovers. I also make a green salad to go with dinner that night.
  6. Plan on having the ingredients for a few easy meals on reserve in the pantry/freezer. Sometimes your day goes south and you don’t have the time/energy to make what’s on the menu for a certain night. Having something easy to make waiting in the wings keeps you out of the drive-thru! I try to plan the extra meals around stuff that we already have in the cupboard. If you don’t have any “extra” food, plan on buying the ingredients for 1 extra meal each week for a month. It can be as simple as a can of soup and grilled cheese- No need to be gourmet every night!
  7. Write a list of all of the ingredients that you need for your weeks menu that you do not have on hand.
  8. Look online and in inserts for coupons. To save time, use a Coupon Database to locate coupons.  I like Couponmom’s Coupon Database– it’s separated by state!

It can take a few weeks to a month to get into the meal planning groove. Give yourself grace and realize that it doesn’t come easy to everyone!

Now, if that is too much work, there are websites (and companies) dedicated to helping you meal plan. eMeals is one of them- It’s not free, but it’s pretty cheap ($5/week or so). They ask you a bunch of questions about your family, diet, and where you live and they supply you with grocery lists based on your dietary needs and where you live and shop.

Recipe Tuesday: Black Beans and Brown Rice!

I’m going to try to publish a recipe at least once a week. Some of these may seem familiar to those who have eaten in my kitchen before. Most of these recipes are family favorites with a healthy twist.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. diced garlic
  • 1 bag Birdseye Recipe Ready Mirepoix OR 1/2 cup each, chopped: white onion, celery, & carrots
  • 1 red or green bellpepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 4 cups water or broth (I used homemade chicken broth)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 T. Cajun Seasoning

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter and add garlic. Cook until fragrant (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add Mirepoix and pepper.  Cook on medium until onions are clear.
  3. Add rice and liquid, cook on medium, stirring often, for 30-35 minutes, until rice is tender.
  4. Add black beans, and cook until beans are heated.
  5. Add Cajun Seasoning and serve.

This makes 6-8 servings. It’s yummy!

*To make it vegan,use coconut oil in place of butter, and use veggie broth instead of chicken broth.

 

 

Photo credit: ronnieb from morguefile.com

Small changes can add up to big savings!

chaulkboard_bkgrnd_506x575 I get asked a lot, “How can I save money besides clipping coupons, using store club cards, apps, and shopping sales?”

Well, ok. Hmmm…. How do you save money without actively saving money? It’s easier than you think, in fact, you probably already do a few of these things, or could with little effort.

Drop the daily Starbucks habit. Seriously. How easy it it to set up your coffee maker before you go to bed and flip on a switch when you crawl out of bed in the morning? It’s so incredibly easy. Like iced coffee or something a little foo foo? The extra ingredients are pretty cheap and last a while, and it takes the same amount of time in the morning to make it yourself, minus the line at the drive-thru.

Supplies you probably have on hand: Coffee/k-Cups, Coffee maker (or french press or Kuerig), creamer, milk, cream, sweetener, flavored syrups, chocolate syrup (if you like a mocha), double walled tumblers with lids and straws for cold drinks, and insulated hot beverage cups with lids for hot drinks.

Don’t know how to make your fav. coffee house recipes? Check out this article, or this one,  for some ideas on how you can do it at home. Oh, and don’t forget Pinterest.

Ditch the Drive-Thru. Again, it’s so easy to spend 10-15 minutes before bed packing your lunch and snacks (not to mention healthier) for the next day. Do it while you are setting up your coffee maker! If you aren’t a sandwich and chips fan, there are tons of yummy lunch alternatives, even if your work place doesn’t have a microwave or method for re-heating your lunch.

Just a quick googling of Adult Lunch Ideas came up with tons of yummy ideas, and Pinterest is full of them too.

And if you’ve got space in your pantry, consider making an area where you can store all your shelf stable lunch and snack components together. We have one shelf called that is the designated snack shelf. I tend to stock up when snacks that we like are cheap or free. I hide them and only put out one or two boxes at a time. That way they last longer. My two go to stores for inexpensive healthy snacks are Costco and Grocery Outlet.

Supplies you probably have on hand: An insulated lunch bag (I have two: One from Thirty-one that looks like this, and an Thermos brand one that is bigger and better for packing lunch and snacks all in one), Reusable containers to hold lunch (I like the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid sets, they snack together and the lids nest. Not to mention that they are durable), blue ice (here is a list of great DIY hacks), an extra set of silverware, a reusable beverage container (like a water bottle, or even a reusable juice box if you like juice in your lunch). If you like salad, consider getting a salad container like this one that has a dressing container and silverware that snaps on.

Meal Plan: it’s totally easy. I promise you that meal planing is so easy, anyone can do it. Lemme break it down:

  • Inventory your pantry and freezer (You can use forms here to make it easier)
  • Make a list of dishes you can create with what you have on hand.
  • Make a list of dishes you can make with 1 or 2 additions that you don’t have on hand.
  • Put the missing ingredients on your shopping list and pick them up on your next few trips
  • Post the lists of dishes on fridge.
  • Don’t freak out when it’s time to cook, you’ve got a cheat sheet on your fridge!

You can even do some freezer/batch cooking when you have a few spare hours and you’ll have a few yummy meals at your fingertips for meals that you don’t feel like cooking. Here are a few free Kindle books from Amazon about freezer/batch cooking. I’ll be posting some batch/Freezer cooking recipes in the near future.

Eat fruit and vegetables that are in season. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating.  Right now we are eating a lot of  of apples, citrus, and winter squashes. Eating food that is in season and inexpensive means I can get more for my buck. We also shop for our produce at 99 Cents Only first to pick up quality name brand products, then fill in with a trip to Sprouts as needed.