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.

Top 5 Freebie Sites that Actually Deliver!

Y’all know how much I love freebies, I post them at least once a week.  There are a lot of sites out there that promise to deliver freebies, but fall short.

Here are my top five favorite freebie sites:

  1. PinchMe– Answer a series of questions about your household and shopping habits in the Member Profile. They learn what you like and offer samples just for you.

Once you’ve had a chance to try your samples, complete a short feedback survey to tell Pinchme what you think of the samples.   New samples are available once a month!

2. MySavings– MySavings updates their freebies and deals daily! I love the variety of samples they post. And if the offer is no longer valid, you just click the Expired button and notify them.

3. Social Nature- If you are into Organic/Natural/Healthy products, then Social Nature is up your alley. Sign up and apply to sample products that you are interested in. I get probably 1-2 products to sample each month. And most of the time it’s full-size products, not just a tiny sample.

4. Smiley360  is a Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing website. Sign up for campaigns and you will receive samples to use, and coupons to share with friends. Report your sharing and earn points! I’ve received Laundry detergent (full-sized bottles), vitamins, supplements, tampons, and razors all in the last year.

5.  Home Tester Club is pretty cool. They are one of my new favorites. You sign up to review items and they send you something. A lot of the time they don’t notify you prior to shipping, you’ll get a package in the mail and a few days later, you’ll get an email notifying you that you were selected and a link to the survey to complete once you have sampled the product. I’ve gotten a Changing Pad Cover, Flushable Wipes, Makeup Remover, and a moisturizer.

BONUS- Looking for some freebies to celebrate your birthday? Check out my list here

 

Recipe: Pesto Chicken Bake

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That’s Basil, the key ingredient in Pesto

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a couple weeks, but with summer vacation and the kids needing to see me, talk to me, touch me every.moment.of.the.day….. I’ve been a little behind.

This is so easy, so tasty, and so cheesy. And it works with almost every dietary restriction:

If you are vegetarian but omit the chicken.

If you are Gluten-free, substitute GF pasta for what’s the recipe.

If you are vegan, use your favorite vegan “cheese”. And remember to check the pesto- sometimes commercially made pesto contains cheese!

Pesto Chicken Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Pesto (I Like Costco’s Pesto) If you want to make it yourself, I like this recipe.
  • 1 Box Farfalle Pasta. I like Banza– It’s made with chickpea flour and is high in protein.
  • 1 T. Butter or Olive Oil
  • 2 C. chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces. You can also use rotisserie chicken.
  • 2 c. cheese, divided- I like Italian Blend

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a baking dish with spray release and set aside.
  3. Cook pasta per box directions, drain pasta and toss with butter/oil.
  4. Mix Pesto, pasta, cooked chicken and 1 cup of cheese together.
  5. Pour mixture into baking dish.
  6. Top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly and browned (approximately 20 minutes).
  8. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving with crusty bread and a green salad.

Serves 6-8 as a main dish or 8-10 as a side. This is a great dish for potlucks!

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Yum! 

New Savingstar Rebates

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SavingStarhas some awesome new rebates available.

If you are new to SavingStar, it’s different from traditional couponing!

What makes SavingStar different is that you don’t receive money off at the register.  The savings in held in your SavingStar account, and once you reach at least $20.00 in savings you can transfer it to your Paypal Account or donate your savings to charity!

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SavingStaris the first national, fully digital, grocery eCoupon service, available for free at www.savingstar.com and on iPhone and Android mobile apps. There’s nothing to clip, nothing to print. Chose offers, shop, and save! SavingStar is currently available at over 70,000 locations!

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Here are the latest offers:

SAVE $2.00 off any ONE (1) Nexium® 24HR Product.Expires 8/20/2019.Save $2.00.

SAVE $5.00 off any ONE (1) 28 ct. or 42 ct. Nexium® 24HR Product.Expires 8/4/2019.Save $5.00.

Save $3.00 when you spend $15.00 on any So Delicious® Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative.Expires 9/15/2019.Save $3.00.

Buy ONE (1) Pure Leaf® Tea Pack (6 pack, any flavor / variety) and get ONE (1) FREE Stacy’s® Pita Thins (up to $3.00, 6.75 oz, any flavor / variety).Expires 8/30/2019.Save $0.00.

Save $1.50 when you purchase ANY TWO (2) BUSH’S® Baked Beans 16oz or BUSH’S® Savory Beans. Any Variety. Items must appear on the same receipt..Expires 8/29/2019.Save $1.50.

Save $1.00 when you purchase ANY ONE (1) Whole Fruit® Frozen Novelties. Any variety..Expires 8/22/2019.Save $1.00.

Save $2.00 when you purchase ANY ONE (1) Scotch® Brand Packaging Tape Multi-packs. Any Variety..Expires 8/21/2019.Save $2.00.(Only at Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Target, Walmart)

Save $0.50 when you purchase ANY ONE (1) Scotch® Brand Packaging Tape Singles. Any Variety..Expires 8/21/2019.Save $0.50.(Only at Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Target, Walmart)

7/8/19 Meal Plan Monday

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This week I’m super busy- appointments, deadlines, and events for the kids. So I’m planning meals that are quick and easy. Also, it’s going to get increasingly hot this week, so easy to do meals that don’t involve using the oven.  Today I’m baking bacon (my secret to crispy splatter-free bacon) for meals throughout the week, and cinnamon rolls for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.

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 playtime 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: Breakfast for dinner (fruit salad, cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon)
  • Tuesday: Crockpot vegetarian chili (recipe coming up with week)
  • Wednesday:  Pesto Chicken bake (but I’m making it in the crockpot- recipe coming up this week)
  • Thursday: Ramen night (I found a big package of this ramen in the back of the cupboard)
  • Friday:  Date Night
  • Saturday: Homemade Pizza Night (I’ll be making the dough earlier in the week and freezing it, so there is less work on Saturday)
  • Sunday: Leftover Night

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

Enjoy Fireworks & Fun at Legoland!

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If you don’t have plans for Thursday, check out the fun at Legoland California!

Don’t miss Fireworks set to a patriotic musical tribute with great viewing in designated locations throughout the Park.

Event activities include:

  • All-American family picnic games: water-balloon tosses, burlap sack races, Family Build Challenge and LEGO Hamburger relay
  • Patriotic costume parade: come dressed in your favorite Red, White and Blue attire
  • Fireworks
  • Character meet and greets
  • Special giveaways
  • Live performances and more!

The celebration lasts from 1:00pm to 9:00pm with fireworks at 8:30pm. All Red, White and BOOM! activities are included in the cost of admission to LEGOLAND California.

And if you are looking for a deal, Groupon has discount admissions here. Or if you stop by a San Diego County area McDonald’s location, you can pick up a coupon for a free child admission when you purchase an adult admission at full price.

If you are looking for more frugal fun at Legoland, check out my post here.  If you have a special needs child, learn more about the Assisted Access pass here.

7/1/19 Meal Plan Monday!

stemarie_1650skitchen

I wrote last week 10 Tips to Stay on Budget for Groceries, and I noted that it’s ok to go over budget sometimes. Well, I took my own advice. There were some things that we had run out of, so I did a big stock up shopping trip last night. Snacks, pantry essentials, and meat (we were down to 1 pound of bacon, sweet, sweet bacon).

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 playtime 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: Grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit salad
  • Tuesday: Bombay Potatoes, cauliflower rice
  • Wednesday:  Veggie and bacon omelets
  • Thursday: Baked chicken Parm with homemade red sauce and zoodles
  • Friday:  Date Night
  • Saturday: Homemade Pizza Night 
  • Sunday: Leftover Night

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