Stretching your Food Budget….

ball_jar.jpgTimes are tough for a lot of us right now. Coupons and deals are drying up left and right. Here are some ways that you can stretch your grocery budget without wasting time or energy.

My Top Ten 99 Cents Only Buys

The eternal question at Costco: Is Bigger Better? Learn about Price Per Unit here. 

In addition to price per unit, you might consider starting a price book as well.

If you live in San Diego County, check out this list of Neighborhood Distributions all over the county. You can pick up 15-30 lbs of free produce each week. No proof of need is required. Just show up with your reusable grocery bags!

If you are low-income, have kids under 5, are a senior citizen, or a college student struggling with food insecurity, there are programs out there that can help you! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to admit that you need help!

There are also food share programs in almost every community in the US.  They provide low cost food boxes to families and individuals. A quick google search can help you find one near you!

In San Diego County, there are monthly distributions through the San Diego food bank at various locations. Colloquially called “commodities”, it’s officially called The Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP). Locations throughout the county distributes USDA food each month. If you live outside San Diego County, check with your local county or municipalities food bank network for more info on this service.

Don’t forget there are tons of money saving and rebate apps. My list is here.

Bartering: Most of us know someone with a backyard garden. Trade your skills (housecleaning, organizing, babysitting, car washing, you get the idea) for some home grown produce, or eggs (some of us live in areas where backyard livestock is ok).  This may not be available to everyone.

Menu Planning is another great way to cut down on food waste- It’s a lot easier than you think once you get started.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear your tips for stretching your grocery budget!

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Easy Home Made Ice Cream Recipe!

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Yes, we made this at home!!

We love Ice Cream! But, it can be expensive, a carton that’s not a half gallon can run upwards of $5.00 around these parts. Most cartons of ice cream are 1.5 to 1.75 quarts, that’s a decrease from 2 quarts or a half gallon just 10 years ago. Same price (or more) and less product. No thanks.

And honestly, there are a lot of weird ingredients in store bought ice cream. Food stabilizers, thickeners (like seaweed), and artificial flavors/colors. No thanks!

After meeting with a nutritionist recently regarding my big kids food issues stemming from sensory issues related to ASD, she recommended more full fat dairy products to help make sure he was getting enough fats in his diet. A kid can only drink so much milk, so I decided to make some ice cream from scratch.

I borrowed my parents Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, which you can buy on Amazon, or probably at your local Bed Bath and Beyond. It makes 2 quarts at a time. It comes with a great cook book full of all kinds of great recipes and ideas.

After looking through that cook book, as well as looking through several of my own, and a quick internet search, I came up with several ideas on how to concoct some tasty ice cream. I asked the kids for flavor suggestions.  Two choices were the big winners:

Peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips- I opted to use PB Fit instead of blending peanut butter into the milk/cream/sugar mixture- so it would have a better texture. I was also worried that the extra fat from the peanut butter would mess with the fat ratio and inhibit the hardening of the mixture.

 

Chocolate Malt- I used the basic recipe below, but added 1/4 c malt powder. I buy a huge container of malt powder on Amazon every quarter, but you can get smaller sized containers at Walmart or in the grocery store.

 

 

Making Ice Cream is easy.  If you’ve got an ice cream maker, you just mix up your ingredients, pour into the drum of the maker, put the lid on, flip the switch and 15-20 minutes, you’ll have a pretty soft ice cream. Scoop it into an airtight container with a lid (like Tupperware), and freeze it for about 2 hours. Then it’ll be hard enough to eat.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t fret, you can use two coffee cans (cleaned out of course), some ice, salt, and duct tape and make it at home- This is the method we used when I was a kid. You can read all about it here along with a true and funny story about making ice cream with kids. This is also a fun thing to do while camping- You can pre-mix the ingredients and take it in your cooler.

Here is the basic recipe I use. Please note that the ingredients used are chosen specifically for their fat content so the ice cream will be creamy. If you alter the ingredients at all, the ice cream will be gritty, grainy, or have ice crystals in it.

Ice Cream Base (makes about 1.5 quarts)

  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream- DO NOT USE half and half, fat free half and half or non-dairy creamer).
  • 1 cup whole milk- You have to use whole milk or you’ll get ice crystals
  • 3/4 c sweetener (I used white sugar, you can also use brown sugar, or 1 for 1 Splenda)
  • 1 T Vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare Ice Cream maker as machine instruction call for, or set up your Coffee Can ice cream maker.
  2. Place all ingredients into chilled mixing bowl, and mix with hand mixer until all ingredients are well blended,
  3. Pour into cream cream maker.
  4. Turn on ice cream maker, or start rolling your coffee cans!

Variations:

If you want to make my PB Fit ice cream, add 3/4 c PB Fit and 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips in step two.

Chocolate Malt ice cream is the base recipe with 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 c malt powder, and an additional 1/2 c brown sugar.

Now onto the economics: Is making your own ice cream cheaper? Usually, yes. We used flavorings that we already have on hand, and I recommend that you do the same- You know what flavors you like, and you probably already have some flavorings on hand.

  • 32 oz. Whipping cream- $4.99
  • 1 qt. Whole Milk .99

That’s enough cream to make 2  2-quart batches of ice cream.

You can watch a video of the ice cream maker going here, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram too! I post all kinds of fun stuff there!

Disclaimer: I have linked to items on Amazon. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. Monies earned through commissions are used to offset the costs associated with running the blog (and the occasional cup of coffee).

Talk Back: What is your favorite flavor of Ice Cream? Have you ever made Ice Cream at home before?

Meal Plan Monday 9/24/18

stemarie_1650skitchen

Hey, did you know that today is National Punctuation Day? To celebrate, let’s use some exclamation points, and get started with our meal plan for the week!

I’ve gotta goto the grocery store this week, so this is based on what little we have on hand. I’ll be buying more meat, fresh fruit, and veg, and some pantry staples that have dwindled. The menu may changed based on what I find while I’m out shopping.  I’ve been doing a lot of shopping at 99 Cents Only, Grocery Outlet, and Aldi’s lately.

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big Kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

Monday: Homemade frozen pizza, carrots with yogurt dip, and green grapes

Tuesday: Cheese enchiladas, beans and Cauliflower Rice (99 Cents only has had Bird’s Eye brand lately and it’s really good!)

Wednesday:  We are going to an event and dinner is included- I’m not sure what it will be

Thursday: Egg scramble with veggies, bacon and cheese (I’m hoping to use up whatever veggies we’ve got on hand- usually bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and shallots).

Friday: I really want soup, so I’m thinking Colonial Chowder and I’ll make biscuits to go with it.

Saturday: I’ve got a corned beef in the freezer, so I’m thinking I’ll pop it into the crockpot Friday night and let it cook all night (recipe here), and I’ll make corned beef sandwiches for us to take along with us when we head up to Brick or Treat at Legoland.

Sunday: There is a mother and Son bowling event that evening, so hubs and Bitty Bird have to fend for themselves, that means: Leftover night!

Talk Back: What are you having this week for dinner?

Meal Plan Monday 7/16/18

stemarie_1650skitchen

The heat is finally starting to break around here, which is a good thing. I am looking forward to eating hot food again. Our bbq died (we can only have propane grills at our HOA, because of insurance purposes, and really, having a grill with a shut off is probably  good thing here).

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

Monday: Breakfast sandwiches on the homemade sourdough English Muffins my mom made over the weekend, and fruit salad.

Tuesday: Crockpot chili. We’ve got lots of beans in the cupboard, so I’m using them up!

Wednesday:  Chicken Tetrazzini, asparagus, fruit

Thursday: Bean, rice, and cheese bowls

Friday: Pizza and salad

Saturday: Hamburgers, salad, and fruit

Sunday: Leftover night!

What are you having this week for dinner?

New Month, New Coupons!

Now that we’ve settled into July, it’s time to post about some of the new printable coupons! Last month I posted that the coupons weren’t that great. This month, they are slowly but surely getting better to ramp up for back to school.

file000786402730Here is your monthly reminder!  A new month means new printable and electronic coupons!

Check out the following sites:

One of my favorite website is the Sunday Coupon Review.  It helps me plot out scenarios in advance and I can email friends to ask for coupons in advance. Remember if clipping coupons isn’t your thing, but saving money is, check out my list of Smartphone apps that can save you the big bucks! New offers are added on the Smartphone Savings Apps all the time!

Here are just a few of the new coupons that have me excited:

Save $1.00 on any FOUR (4) WYLER'S LIGHT® Drink Mix Items - Includes Singles to Go, Canisters or Pitcher Packs
This coupon is great if you have a Dollar Tree location near you. These little boxes are $1.00 each and contain 8-10 packets. With this coupon, it’s like buy three, get one free!

 

Save $2.00 any ONE(1) CLEAN & CLEAR® product(excludes trial and travel sizes)
If you use this coupon, check your Target app to see if there is a cartwheel/savings deal in addition to this coupon- The best way to save money is to stack deals.


$1.00 OFF any ONE (1) Once Again Nut Butter ( 12 oz. or 16 oz.)
Perfect for Back To School Shopping, especially if your school is peanut-free or you have a peanut allergy in your home.

$1.00 OFF any TWO (2) flavors Lenny & Larry's The Complete Cookie 4 oz.

These cookies are so delicious.

 

 

And if you live in California, check out the CA Dairy Board’s website! Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and look for this:

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You can print two coupons per computer, every thirty days. It’s a great way to save a little bit of money if you already purchase milk and other dairy products.

What coupons or deals are you excited about?

Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

So, I know it’s Tuesday, but we were at Legoland yesterday for the opening of the Deep Sea Adventure. I need to get back to meal planning for the week because without it, I’m getting lazy!

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got buy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. This week, I plan on making a couple pizza crusts, and put them in the freezer in individual bags so we can have pizza whenever we want without having to call Dominos. I also plan on doing some meal prep this coming weekend for the coming week.

Monday: we had Jack in the Box on the way home from Legoland. We left later and got home even later.

Tuesday: The kids asked for Pancakes, so I whipped up a batch. For them, I just made regular pancakes, for Mister and myself, I made pancakes, but put a slice of bacon in batter after it’s poured onto the griddle. Yum.

Wednesday: BBQ at my parents house. It’s a potluck, and we’re bringing corn to grill, and a tasty green salad. There will be fried chicken, salads of all types, baked beans, and a brownie sundae bar!

Thursday: Pulled Pork. Onions, yellow bell peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, shallots, bay leaves, and about a cup of La Victoria Salsa Verde Pineapple Salsa, All cooked with a pork tenderloin roast. I’ll be starting it Wednesday night.  In the morning I’ll shred the roast with two forks, and vent the lid to cook off the excess moisture.  By 5 PM, the meat will melt in our mouths. I’ll be serving it with tortillas, rice, bans, and a green salad.

Friday: Leftovers, I’m guessing, or maybe quesadillas. Friday is usually date night, but it’s tech week for Mister’s play, and he opens Friday Night.

Saturday: Home Made Pizza- I’ll probably bust out a few extra crusts at the same time to freeze.

Sunday: Lemon Garlic Spaghetti Squash casserole– I’ve got 4 small spaghetti squash that need to be baked! I’m going to try cooking them in the crockpot- I saw a post on Facebook about it a few weeks ago and I saved the video.

What are you having this week for dinner?

 

Review- The Camp & Cabin Cookbook: 100 Recipes to Prepare Wherever You Go

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 10.13.47 PM.pngWe are big into outdoor cooking: Grilling, Dutch oven cooking, heck, even sometimes cooking over fire (ok, so that’s usually just s’mores, but that’s cooking, right?). When Laura Bashar, the author of The Camp & Cabin Cookbook: 100 Recipes to Prepare Wherever You Go offered me copy of her book for review, I jumped at the chance!

If you’ve never cooked in a Dutch Oven or over coals, Laura gives you the primer! She goes over all the deets: How many coals you need to achieve specific cooking temps, various cooking techniques (over flame, over coals), and how to translate the recipes to be cooked indoors (just in case you want to try these awesome recipes and aren’t planning on camping any time soon).

The recipes are easy to follow and follow you through the day: Breakfast, lunch, appetizers, dinner, desserts, and even side dishes. And it’s not just the typical camping food, there are recipes for the kinds of food you eat at at home! Just because you aren’t at home, doesn’t mean you have to live off of hot dogs, Dinty Moore canned stew, and cold cereal.

My family poured over this cookbook during our last camping trip and we have planed an outdoor cooking afternoon to try out a lot of these recipes in the coming weeks. Check my Insta Feed in the coming weeks for pics of some of the dishes we create.