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!

Helping Neighbors with Blessing Boxes

So for those of you that live in San Diego, one of our local Methodist Churches (The one in Santee-8964 Magnolia Ave, Santee, CA 92071) has a Blessing Box where neighbors can put food, toiletries, diapers, formula, etc. to share with neighbors who are in need but can’t make it to the local food bank for whatever reason. It was started last year. You can read more about it here and see some pictures.
I try to stop by every few weeks and put some stuff from our pantry in it. I pick up a few extra items at the grocery store (or 99 Cents Only or Grocery Outlet) when I shop each week. Instant oatmeal, canned soup, tuna, or beans with a pop-top (in case someone doesn’t have access to a can opener).
When I walked to the blessing box this AM there were 4 packets of oatmeal, some citrus fruit, and a fleece blanket (in the grocery bag).
I quickly scoured my car for everything I had. I didn’t have a lot extra in my trunk, but I emptied it of all of the food I had- I even went through the kid’s Snack bag that is for “emergency car snacks”.
IMG_8728.jpgHere is what it looked like after I put in my donation. I picked up a package of wipes from Huggies at a bloggers summit a few weeks back. I hadn’t yet opened it, so I added it to the Blessing Box.  I know that this box gets utilized by a lot of locals with great frequency. I will be back to add more groceries tonight.
Some of you may have Little Free Pantries or Free Food Boxes in your area too. If not, it’s easy to start one! Many local schools also have a food pantry for kids whose families face food insecurity. Santana High School has one!
My call to action for you is this:
  1. Look into your pantry and pick out 5 things you can live without. They must be in date and something someone actually wants to eat (I’m looking at you, jar of cocktail onions).
  2. Find someone in need. Add it to your local Little Free Pantry, post it on a neighborhood forum, a local parents group, or donate it to your local school food pantry.
  3. Give freely and with love.
  4. Repeat.
I know that most of us have grocery budgets. Imagine if we all cut $5 out of our budget and bought 5 (or more) items to share with a neighbor in need- That would go really far to help hungry families!
If you aren’t sure what to donate, here are a few suggestions:
  • Canned Meats
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits
  • Canned Soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal & Oatmeal
  • Rice & Pasta
  • Powdered Milk, beverage mixes (like shelf stable juice concentrate, instant coffee, hot cocoa pouches)
  • Infant Formula (The sample sized canisters or sample pouches that you may have received free in the mail are perfect donations!)
  • Toiletries and hygiene items
 I can’t wait to hear about how you’ve helping a neighbor!

Holiday Resources For Those in Need

thanksgivingturkey.jpgIt’s getting to be the season of giving, and for some families there isn’t the means to give this year. For some families there isn’t the means for a sit down family meal either.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are more than food and gifts, but no one should go hungry any time of year!

Here are some resources for those in San Diego County who might need some help.

Here is my post with a list of food banks/pantries in San Diego. Meet the Need at Faith Chapel has a lot of great events coming up to help you get through the holidays:

  • 11/19/: Faith Chapel is giving out Food Boxes and Turkeys starting at 10:30am.
  • 12/3: Meet the Need’s first Sunday event will be featuring a limited number of free Christmas trees in addition to the usual free lunch and bag of groceries.
  • 12/17: Faith Chapel will be distributing toys to children in need after the 10:30am service.

Feeding the Flock and several other ministries are sponsoring a Thanksgiving food box (turkey included). More information and sign ups can be found here.

You can also find local food banks/pantries from AmpleHarvest or by calling 211 in your area.

Toys 4 Tots is a well know toy charity, however their deadline to request toys is early November. If you missed the cut off, there are a few San Diego based toy charities that can help out.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 1.53.34 PM.pngToys 4 Joy has 4 San Diego area events on December 9th. Toys for Joy is open to all children and families and no registration is required. One free toy will be given to all children attending the event ages 0 – 11. Free lunch will be provided in addition to free entertainment, kids activities and giveaways. All four locations have free groceries and one location has free gently used clothing available.

We Care Toy Drive provides 750 toys to local San Diego area kids. You can learn more by visiting their website.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 8.09.41 AMThe Closet on 54th has a great free clothing closet you can shop at once a month, they also have a free food pantry that is open three days a week. You can find more info on their Facebook page here.

 

 

Giving Back: Blessing Bags (A Tutorial)

One of the reasons that I coupon is so that I can have the fortune to help others. Many couponers donate to causes that are dear to them.  My local Coupon Group donates HBA to Naomi’s Closet in Santee, CA. We also support one of the local American Legion posts with two of their service projects: Coupons to overseas families and homeless veteran outreach.

We are able to donate and help others because we use coupons and shop sales. Many times we are able to pick up free items to donate, or items that are 80%+ off the regular price.

My mom’s group has made blessing bags in the past (We usually make some to be handed out at a local homeless camp on Christmas Day). For those who are not familiar with the term, a blessing bag is a small bag (usually a ziploc type bag) filled with:

  • small or travel sized toiletries
  • snacks like crackers, tuna in a pop-top can or pouch, granola bars, instant oatmeal
  • bottled water
  • hard candy
  • lip balm
  • safety pins
  • socks
  • hand/baby wipes
  • razors
  • an extra ziploc bag
  • Feminine Hygiene supplies
  • A large trash bag folded up (It can be used as a rain poncho)

I try to keep a couple in my car and I hand them out when we see those in need while we are out. For those of you who aren’t native to Southern California, there are a lot of homeless here. We have good weather most of the year, so it’s ok to sleep outside 6-8 months of the year. According to the 2014 Homeless census in San Diego, there are over 8500 homeless residents in San Diego. That’s just the number that were counted, there are many more that were not.

Last year Lil’ Man and I made blessing bags several times and we plan to make more this year.

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Examples of what we put in our blessing bags last year.

I keep all the samples I request in an up-cycled baby wipe container under my bathroom sink.

I also go through my HBA stockpile for items like BIC razors, lip balm, and toothpaste I picked up for free after coupon and store sale.

My parents travel a lot for my dad’s Board position in a non-profit, so they always have a stash of hotel soap/toiletries. My parents give us a grocery bag full to assist in the cause.

Last year, Lil’ Man and I sat on the floor and put together 26 bags. Not every bag had the same items in it, but they each contained a variety of HBA, snacks, and supplies.

Blessing bags area great way to help those of your neighbors who may be on the streets. If you live in an area where there isn’t a large visible homeless population, consider making blessing bags and donating them to a shelter or checking with your local churches for homeless outreach.

Helping San Diego, CA area women in need: Naomi’s Closet

If you are a San Diego, Ca area resident, female and in need, I have a great resource for you.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 7.29.30 AM

Naomi’s Closet is run through the Santee United Methodist Church (Located at 8964 N. Magnolia Ave., Santee, CA 92071). They provide up to five items of clothing per month (Your choice from a very good selection in a wide variety of sizes), and 2 toiletries.

Naomi’s Closet is open on the following days and times:

  • Wednesdays 10am-12pm
  • 1st & 3rd Saturdays 9am-1pm

No appointment is needed, just show up during open hours. You do not need to show proof of need.

Donations of women’s clothing and toiletries are gladly accepted. I personally donated about 90% of my former wardrobe when I started losing weight.  My coupon club donates items that we are able to obtain for free (by combining sales and coupons). Recently I have donated hair color, shaving cream, nail polish, and razors.

If you have questions, or you would like more information, you can contact Naomi’s Closet at naomiscloset@cox.net.

The church also has a free pancake breakfast on the 1st Saturday of each month from 8am-10am.

I am not a parishioner, but I support Naomi’s Closet and the good works that the members of the Santee United Methodist Church do.

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.FoodForwardVillage Harvest are just two.
  • There are websites where you can register your trees and share your produce with others. Neighborhood Fruitis 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!