7 Frugal Ways to Beat The Heat!

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Ok, so it’s not *that* hot, but close…

This week has been slightly hellish. It’s hot, humid, and just so gross no one wants to move.

It’s too expensive for us to run our AC all the time (Thanks SDG&E!), and really, I don’t want to spend all day in the house, so here are my top 7 Frugal Tips to Beat the Heat in San Diego!

  1. Check out your local library. Both County Libraries and City of San Diego Libraries have awesome summer programs for kids and adults!
  2. There is still time to sign up for Kids Bowl Free All Summer! Just pay for bowling shoe rental!
  3. Visit Balboa Park for Free Tuesdays at various museums each week. Another free activity in Balboa Park is the Botanical Garden and Lily Pond. Right next door is the Spanish Art Village, which is fun to explore as well. Pack some snacks and make a day of it.
  4. Check out your local indoor mall for fun family activities. In San Diego, we’ve got a couple- Plaza Bonita, Parkway Plaza, and Westfield North County (the mall formerly known as North County Fair). Each one has monthly fun activities for kids and families- just check your local mall’s website.
  5. Have you seen the kinds of Groupons that are available lately? Uptown Jungle has 6 options! There are all kinds of fun activities from Axe throwing to waterparks, you’ll be having all sorts of frugal adventures in no time.
  6. Get in the Water! Beach, lake, river, local pool… whatever. Heck, get in a kiddie pool and splash around. Don’t forget the SPF and snacks.
  7. If you want to stay home, close up all the windows, draw the shades/curtains, turn on all your fans, set the AC to something comfy but not arctic (for us, that’s 80-82 degrees when it’s going to be over 100 outside). Once the house is chilled out, pop some popcorn and assemble some awesome snacks (We had this pumpkin/fuck it bucket because I received it in the mail to review), make a pillow fort and watch some fun movies. We did that the other day. We watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Zootopia.

If you are looking for a way to cool down in your pillow fort, this little dude is pretty cool (haha, temperature pun!)

Talk Back: What are your favorite ways to beat the heat?

Is Summer Snacking Wrecking your Grocery Budget?

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Chatting with a friend via Insta yesterday, we were lamenting the “OMG DO THEY EVER STOP EATING!!” of summer vacation.

I’ve never begrudged my kids snackies when they are hungry, but seriously, on days when we are at home, building Legos and watching movies- THEY EAT ALL DAY.  I can’t let them rummage through the cupboard and eat whatever, so I started the snack box (for the pantry) and snack drawer (in the fridge).

We’ve had “The snack box” and the “snack drawer” in our kitchen for about 2 years now.

In the cupboard, I’ve got a basket like this one. It’s full of various types of treats and snacks. Instead of buying individually bagged treats, I often buy a box of whatever (in the photo below it’s animal crackers) and divide the large box into snack-sized Ziploc bags).  It just depends on what is available at Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only on my weekly shopping trip. Those are my go-to snack stores.

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The Snack Drawer in the Fridge
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Pantry Snack Box- Refilled weekly

The Pantry Snack Box contains shelf-stable stuff: Juice boxes, crackers, chips, dried fruit, fruit snacks, individual Peanut/nut butter cups. I usually tuck a couple bags of microwave popcorn too. Sadly, we have none left. I was informed that I *must* rectify that matter tomorrow.

The Fridge Snack Drawer contains some of the following: Cheese sticks, yogurt, Ziploc bags of fruit or veggies (watermelon wedges, strawberries, grapes, carrots, celery, and jicama are just a few favorites), little cups of hummus, guac, ranch dip (homemade with greek yogurt and ranch dip mix).

The snacks vary by week, and I took these pics today- It’s midweek and they are pretty picked over- I did refill the Pantry Snack Box with stuff from the cupboard. That’s my secret- don’t put it all out at once. I stash the extras in the back of the pantry, where tiny arms can’t reach.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know that my weekly family grocery budget is $80. I spend about $25 of my weekly budget on stuff for the snack box/drawer. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the school year, the function of these becomes for packing lunches in the morning. The Big Kid doesn’t really like sandwiches, and as he’s a vegetarian he gets most of his protein from nuts/seed butter and dairy sources.

I also keep Go-gurt style tube yogurts in the freezer- Those are mostly for Bitty, Big Kid doesn’t care for yogurt too often.

For the grown-ups, there is a basket in the pantry full of protein and fiber snack bars (Along with other more “grownup” snacks- which are sometimes new snacks that the kids veto after sampling). I get those at Grocery Outlet or 99 Cents Only. Grocery Outlet locations in my area always have a great variety of protein bars, snack bars, and protein cookie (Like these, which are also a hit with the Big Kid, so I have to dole them out) for a lot less than grocery or club stores.

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Close-up of the Pantry Snack Box. There is a little bit of something for everyone!

This is how my family keeps everyone fed at home and on budget. I’d love to hear about your family’s ideas to solve this issue.

Enjoy the YMCA for free this Thursday!

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Ya’ll know my love of your local Y. This Thursday, July 4th, you can check out any San Diego County YMCA for FREE!  Thursday, July 4 YMCA locations are open 7:00am-2:00pm (Holiday Hours). Childwatch times vary by location, so call ahead or check the branch locations before heading out.

The kids and I will be hitting up the Y to get our wiggles out before heading out to party with family Thursday afternoon!

And if you are looking for a job, many YMCA locations are hiring! Year-round and seasonal positions currently available. Learn more at www.ymca.org/careers

 

10 Tips to Stay on Budget for Groceries

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I frequently get skeptical looks, the side eye, or people thinking I’m starving my kids when I tell them that our grocery budget is $80/week.

It takes a lot of work, but it is doable. I cook a lot from scratch- it’s healthy, cheap, and I can control what goes into each dish (hidden veggies, fruit, less sugar, etc.). I can make a cheese pizza at home for less than $4, and that is enough pizza for the kids for two meals!

Here are a few of our family tactics to stay on budget:

  1. CASH! Go to the bank/ATM and get your grocery money out of the bank every week. This is a great way to start. I get $80 out of the ATM each Saturday for the upcoming weeks’ groceries.
  2. Inventory your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry. Bonus- You’ll also find stuff that needs to be thrown out or donated. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printables, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.
  3. Menu Plan. Start by using what you’ve got on-hand. Eat food that’s on sale or in season. We eat a lot of strawberries in the summer because they are cheap!
  4. Make a grocery list. Stick to the list Don’t be afraid to substitute brands, or make changes based on what is on sale, or any in-store markdowns you find.
  5. Don’t be afraid to go to more than one store. I’m not saying run all over town, but going to two stores is OK. In our area, there are a 99 Cents Only store and a Grocery Outlet in the same shopping Center. I hit up both each week. Then, on the way home, I stop at Food4Less and buy milk (cheapest in town!), eggs, and bread (if 99 Cents Only doesn’t have the high protein bread we like).
  6. Eat Less Meat. Not only does it save money, but it’s better for the environment.
  7. Take advantage of local resources. There are a few food co-ops in our area. Additionally, there are free produce distributions too. A couple of my friends and I split a co-op lot twice a month. It comes out to less than $20 per person, and we get all kinds of cool stuff. A quick google search can help you find both in your area.  In the summer, we take advantage of Kid’s free lunches too.
  8. Coupon and/or use money-saving apps.  My complete list of apps can be found here. Right now my favorite apps are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta.  I love that I can use Fetch at any store. It helps because I shop a lot of Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only.
  9. Speaking of which… Don’t forget to check out stores like 99 Cents Only. There are all kinds of great bargains. Here is my list of 10 Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!
  10. Be Flexible. Some weeks you will go over budget. It happens. Sometimes you need to stock up on staples, or your family wants to eat something that isn’t on sale. Sometimes you really want to order a pizza and wings. That’s OK! Frugality is a journey, it’s not a punishment or a life of austerity and suffering. You can still live a fun, full life while being frugal.

Talk Back: Share a few of your families tips for staying on budget?

6/24/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

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Big Kid started Summer school this morning, so he’s enjoying a few hours of learning and play away from his little sister (which I’m sure they will both enjoy- They’ve been at each other for the past few days). I stocked up on snacks and treats Saturday night at Grocery Outlet, so the kids will have yummy food to get them through the week.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done, so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  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 soups for me. The kids will be enjoying free lunches all over the county with free activities and play time before or after lunch.

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

  • Monday: Tortellini soup- Recipe forthcoming this week!
  • Tuesday: Homemade Pizza Night (I’m prepping the crusts today and stashing the dough in the fridge overnight to proof)
  • Wednesday:  Pasta Free Lasagna 
  • Thursday: Frittata– I’ve got a lot of veggies that need to get eaten, and some bacon in the freezer!
  • Friday:  Date Night- I’m hoping for Ramen!
  • Saturday:  Chicken Korma and Cauliflower Rice
  • Sunday: Leftover Night

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

Summer Movie Programs for Kids!

In the past, I’ve only posted about Regal Cinemas Summer movies but after some digging, I’ve come to discover that most movie theatre companies offer an inexpensive summer movie program for kids!

Looking at each theatres offerings, it appears that there isn’t tons of variety. Most theatres are showing kids movies that were popular in the last 5 years or so.

UltraStar Cinemas: A different film shown every week at 9:30 AM. Tickets on sale NOW at the theater box offices. $1 per movie. Mission Valley at Hazard Center Summer Program, every Monday-Thursday: June 17-August 8.

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Regal 2019 Summer Movie Express series– Movie ticket deals are just $1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays featuring summer movies the whole family will enjoy like Shrek, Despicable Me, Kung Fu Panda and many more. Regal has the widest variety of movies.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.46.09 AM.png Reading Cinema has summer movies as well! Tickets are just $1 each, and movies start at 10am M-TH.

 

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.57.05 AM.pngAMC offers a summer movie program, however, there are only three locations in California: Bonsall, Irvine, and Apple Valley (Victorville area). Their Summer Movie Camp is being offered at their AMC Classic theatres ONLY.  The complete list of participating theatres can be found here.

The nice part about the AMC program is that the programs includes a ticket to the Kid-Friendly movie plus a KidsPack every Wednesday for just $4 (+tax).

 

To keep the frugal morning going, check out a free kids lunch location near the theatre.  For more info on San Diego locations, check out this post. If you live outside San Diego County, Text FOOD  (Or COMIDA for a list in Spanish) to 877-877, or call 211 and you can find a list of free summer lunch locations near you.

$1 Hot Dogs at Sonic Today Only!

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 7.36.04 AM.pngI’m stoked about this deal because I like hot dogs every once in a while. Not enough to buy them at the store and cook them at home.

The big kid is a vegetarian, so he’ll probably enjoy some tots, But the little and I will each get a dog.

6″ Chili Cheese Coney or All-American Dog are just $1 today at Sonic! You can order ahead in the Sonic App today using promo code DOLLAR. Plus, get half-price drinks and slushes with Happy Hour Any Time when you order in the Sonic App. Sweet Deal!
*$1 Dogs: Includes 6″ Chili Cheese Coney and All-American Dogs. Tax not included. Add-Ons cost extra. Limit 5. Valid only June 20, 2019, at participating SONIC® Drive-Ins. Not valid with Combos or any other offers. Not valid with third-party delivery services.

**Happy Hour Any Time: Get ½ Price Drinks and Slushes Every Time You Order Ahead in the SONIC® App. Includes Soft Drinks, Iced Teas, regular Lemonades and Limeades, Frozen Lemonades and Limeades, Ocean Water® and Famous, Real Fruit and Candy Slushes. Add-Ins cost extra. Excludes Mini size, Ice Cream Slushes, Combos, Wacky Pack® Kids Meals and other offers. Discount based on menu price. Order Ahead available only at select locations. Offer good for a limited time only at participating SONIC® Drive-Ins.