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?

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?

Summer Fun on a Budget!

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It’s here again… Summer Vacation. Soon we shall hear the sounds of sighs, the boredom, and the wailing about how there is nothing to do or eat.

Ya’ll can feel me, right? Ok, so here are some ways to beat the boredom without breaking the bank.

Kids Bowl Free All Summer! Just pay for bowling shoe rental!

Free Summer Lunches for kids– Lots of locations have events or activities nearby, so you can have fun and have a free lunch!

The splash ground at Santee Lakes is GREAT! It’s only $2.00 per kid to play and if you park outside the Santee Lakes, you don’t have to pay to park! Take a picnic and it’s a great frugal outing! We go at least once a week in the summer and it’s always
a GREAT time!

The Santee Lakes hosts free summer movies throughout the summer.  If you park your car outside the gates (there is lots of street parking!), there is no cost of the movies.  If you drive your car into the park, it’s $8.00 per car, regardless of how many ppl are in your car.   Bring a picnic and some blankets and kick back for a fun family movie!

There are a bunch of municipal pools in San Diego that have open swim times, and a couple that have splash pads!

Most San Diego, CA area YMCA locations have fun events for kids a few Saturday nights per month. Our local Y does Kids Night at the Y twice a month. It’s only $20 per kid (Just a little more if you aren’t a member), and your kids go have fun for 4 hours. It’s cheaper than a sitter and a lot more fun!

Speaking of the YMCA- Most locations have pools, splash pads, or other aquatic fun, entrance is included with YMCA membership. If you aren’t a member, entrance fees are just a few dollars (it varies by location).

Balboa Park still offers Free Tuesdays at various museums in the park.

San Diego County Libraries have story time and various kid events each week.  I love taking the kids to the Santee library story time!

El Cajon, La Mesa, and Escondido all have classic car shows/rallies each week that are free.  Most have free live music too!  Check out some sweet rides, cool tunes, and have a fun frugal night with the fam!

San Diego County has great parks, as do most of the cities in San Diego County! Our favorite parks include Big Rock Park in Santee, Kennedy Park in El Cajon, La Mesita/Junior Seau Park in La Mesa, Harry Griffin Park in La Mesa (great for little kids).

If you’ve got a Starwood Managed Mall Near you (We do- It’s Parkway Plaza), check out their fun kid’s events each month called: MallStars.  There are different crafts, games, and sometimes even snacks for the kids (10 and under) to do! Times and locations within the mall vary, so check with mall management.

Talk Back: What kind of stuff do you do to keep your family entertained for free?

2019 Free Meals this Summer for Kids!

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Like last year, I’m still pulling together resources at the time that this is published, and I’ll be adding additional sites as soon as I can.

School will be out within a month for most kids in San Diego, and that means there are some parents (and kids) who usually rely on free or subsidized school lunches may find themselves wondering what to do.

Thankfully, a lot of great organizations have stepped up and partnered with local area schools, libraries, rec centers, and civic organizations to provide free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for al kids 18 and under this summer.

For any of these opportunities, there is NO PROOF OF INCOME OR PROOF OF NEED REQUIRED. You take your kiddos, show up at a location near you during the lunch period (each location sets its own hours), and the kids get a yummy, healthy lunch for free. Menus vary, but all lunches meet USDA guidelines for a healthy lunch (think of the food pyramid).

You can search here for a list of California Department of Education sites that offer free meals (some sites offer breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks).

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 1.52.03 PM.pngFor those of us in Eastern San Diego County, Cajon Valley School District sponsors free lunches!

Menus will probably be available in the next few weeks. Last Summer every Friday was pizza day! And there are usually vegetarian options daily for those of you who have meat-free kiddos (previous options included bean, rice, and cheese burritos, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, cheese sandwiches, nut butter sandwiches, or Uncrustables)!

Last summer The El Cajon Library had lunch and activities (crafts, story time, etc) each day (Monday -Friday).

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 2.03.13 PM.pngSan Diego Unified School District has partnered with some awesome sponsors to host the Summer Fun Cafe 2019 all over San Diego County! Lunch will be served at over 30 locations all summer for kids 18 and under! The kick-off Summer BBQ (with free lunch for adults too) at Penn Athletic Field on 6/20/19 10:30am-2:00pm! There are all kinds of activities, community resources, and even free produce for families to take home!

Most locations will be serving lunch on June 17-August 16, 2019.

What I love about this program is that there are tons of rec centers hosting these lunches and they are usually adjacent to a playground, which means after a long morning of playing, the kids don’t have long to wait to get a yummy lunch!

Looking for a few ideas of summer fun with a nearby lunch?

  • There is a lunch location down at the Waterfront Park- which is also free (You have to pay to park at the meters)! It has a great playground and a splash area.
  • The Tierrasanta Rec Center has a cool kids splash ground that’s open early in the day. It’s not free, but it’s pretty cheap ($2/ kid, $4/adult).

If you know of more summer lunch programs for kids in San Diego County, I’d love to hear about them! Please leave a comment!

If you aren’t in the immediate San Diego area, 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.

 

Weekly Meal Plan!

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Mondays are crazy around here, between my college classes, and Big Kid’s weekly social skills class, we don’t get home until late. So publishing our weekly meal plan is not a high priority after a busy day. I did write it out yesterday while I was at the Y!

This week we are focusing a lot of eating up what we’ve got on hand. There are a lot of changes afoot in my household (there will be an upcoming post, I promise). I’m focusing a lot on the kids, and trying to return to my frugal roots.

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.

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.  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 and the Little Bit, and The Big Kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently).

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: Ramen- I’ll post pics on Instagram today. Our local Grocery Outlet had bone broth, and I used Brown Rice and Millet Ramen noodles. poached eggs, and spinach
  • Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner- Waffles made with Kodiak Flapjack Mix and Fruit Salad
  • Wednesday: I’m going to the grocery store, so I’ll probably pick up a rotisserie chicken and a salad
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday:  I’m going out with the girls, so the kids will have Pizza!
  • Saturday: Chicken enchiladas (made from the rotisserie chicken leftovers), beans, rice, and brocolli
  • Sunday: Chicken Soup (made from the carcass of the rotisserie chicken and the remaining meat).

 

Talk Back: What will you be cooking this week?

It’s Back! Weekly Meal Plan!

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I cleaned out the pantry last week. There was a lot of weird/unusual stuff- Thanks to my food blogging/cooking endeavors. I also went through the fridge and tossed a bunch of condiments that were of various “vintages”.

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.

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: 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.

This week is going to be a little different. There is going to be some traveling this week, so I’ll be relying more on my freezer stash.

  • Monday: Table5 Pizza and Fruit Salad
  • Tuesday: Chicken Tetrazzini with brocolli (Hooray for 1 pot meals)
  • Wednesday: Pesto Pasta bake (it’s a new recipe I’m working on- if it turns out well I’ll post it later this week).
  • Thursday: Grilled Cheese sandwiches made with Chef Shamy Garlic Butter and sharp cheddar cheese, Homemade Tomato Soup.
  • Friday:  Stir fry veggies and cauliflower “rice”.
  • Saturday: Spanish Rice casserole- Sausage, Spanish rice, and veggies.
  • Sunday: Leftoverpalooza, or breakfast for dinner.

And I’ll be making some cookies with Kodiak Flapjack mix (Protein Chocolate Chip Cookies), and at least one batch of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins.

Talk Back: What will you be cooking this week? 

Back on Track for Fall! and a $25 Amazon GC Giveaway.

For most of our kids, school has either started or will start in about a week. I’ve had a rocking summer with the kids, but it’s time to get settled back into a routine for the family. I am a huge proponent of routines for kids. Having one for our family has really helped calm and allay fears of the unknown, which is huge for kids with ASD.

Not that everything has to be exactly the same every day, but knowing what will happen within a time frame gives kids (and some adults too) a certain sense of calm.

I posted at the beginning of the summer about our schedule, and it really helped. Our school year schedule is a little different, but most of our appointments are the about the same time each week.

A few other things that help us keep on track during the school year:

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 8.41.01 AM.pngHaving grab and go lunch items at hand. In the pantry, there is a basket filled with all kinds of lunch/snack items. Crackers, cookies, squeezy pouches, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, cups of PB/other nut/seed butters, pretzels, juice boxes, etc. On the counter we’ve got a trifle bowl (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made trifle in the past 11 years-but… it makes a great fruit bowl), that we will with lunchbox sized fruit: apples, tangerines, and occasionally pears. I keep the bananas separate on a little hook/stand.

I also keep a stash of frozen tubes of yogurt in the freezer, and a grip of cheese sticks either pre-packaged or home-made, depending on which is cheaper, in the fridge. What’ a home made cheese stick? Buy a big block of cheese, grab a large, sharp knife and cut the cheese into hunks resembling commercially made cheese sticks. I wrap them in saran wrap and keep them in a large zip top bag in the dairy drawer.

It takes about 15 minutes to organize the lunch stuff once a week, and it saves me a lot of time each morning.

A Pretty Solid Meal Plan. I’ve posted about meal planning so many times, and honestly, it really does help. I get a lot of magazines in the mail (free of course), and most of them are cooking magazines. I try to add a new recipe into the mix weekly.

Exercise. I know this sounds weird, but, for me, exercise is my me time. We go to our local YMCA, and the kids go to child care for up to two hours. I do an hour of cardio (and catch up on email, Facebook, or bring along a book), then do weights for about 20-40 minutes. It’s a chance to focus on my body and health. Sometimes I grab my travel bag, and toss it into my gym bag with a couple towels and go take a shower after my cardio. Taking a shower without little people interrupting you is one of life’s small luxuries. Whatever makes you happy and allows you to escape a little each day, I encourage you to explore it. 

Coffee. I’m one of those people that has to have coffee every day. It’s part of my daily ritual. I drink at least 30 ounces of coffee a day: hot, cold, heck even room temp., I don’t care. It can even be decaf. I set up to coffee maker before bed, and when we get up in the morning, there is a hot, fresh pot of coffee. And we don’t have a fancy coffee maker either… This is the coffee maker we have.

Giveaway: Let’s celebrate back to school! I’d love to hear about how you get back to it after school starts. Leave me a comment below and enter to win a $25 Amazon GC* here (This link may not be mobile friendly)! I’ll choose a winner on September 4th, 2018. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Winner subject to verification of entry tasks. Winner must reside in the USA. $25 Amazon GC will be rewarded as a digital Gift Code, emailed to the winner.