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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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!

In Need? Food Resources in San Diego

DSCN2469Updated: June 2017

For some of us, couponing and frugal living aren’t enough. Sometimes you need help, and there is no shame in admitting that.

In a large metropolitan areas like San Diego County, there are many resources for those who have food insecurity. Some of them require proof of need, proof of residence, or extensive paperwork to qualify. For someone who is embarrassed by food insecurity, these requirements can be a deterrent. Other organizations put a cap on how many times a family can visit.

Here are a few local San Diego County Area organizations that offer food assistance that do not require any proof of need:

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 8.09.41 AMThe Cupboard on 54th. Located at Calvary Lutheran Church 3060 54th Street, San Diego, CA 92115.  They are open 3 times a week.

You can get dry goods one time per month and a produce bag is available each day they are open (for a total of three times a week).

This is located at the same location as a free clothing closet. They have clothes for men women and children, as well as shoes and accessories.

Journey Church in La Mesa has a food bank that distributes food three times per month.

  • 1st Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm
  • 2nd Friday of the month – produce only – at 9 am
  • 3rd Saturday of the month from 8:30 am

Christ United Methodist Church 3295 Meade Ave San Diego, CA 92116 has a food bank three days a week. They ask you how many people are in your home (adults and kids) and they put together a kit for you. Lots of canned and boxed goods! Everything is in date and in good shape.

Hours: Mondays 1-3pm, Wednesdays 10am-Noon and 1-3pm, Fridays 10am-Noon and 1-3pm

Park in the rear lot and look for the Good Neighbor Center Food Bank sign.

The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank has neighborhood distribution sites all over SanDiego. There are no requirements or proof of need (no ID either).  Just bring a few reusable bags or a cart to carry your food home. You can find a list of locations and times here.

unnamed.jpgFaith Chapel in Spring Valley has a great event once a month called Meet the Need. It is the 1st Sunday of each Month.

There is a free lunch starting at 1pm with some fellowship (a great way to meet your neighbors), followed by shopping in their boutique for free clothing and household items, and free grocery distribution.

You can learn more by visiting or contacting Faith Chapel here.  Pastor Josiah and his crew are wonderful people!

 

For residents of the City of Santee, the Santee Food Bank is available to you twice a month. Once for regular distribution (from whatever donations they have received), and once for commodities (that’s more like pantry staples). More information and updated contact information can be found here. Proof of Santee Residency (like a utility bill) is required.

Feeding American San Diego has a map on their website of various resources in the San Diego area, many of them require no proof of need or paperwork.

If you have any food resources to share, please leave a comment!