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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Earn Gift Cards with Radial Insight!

With Halloween coming up, I’ve been busy busy busy! Trying to find fun and free events for the kids (and to share with you!), making costumes, and getting into fall with baking. I had to put the brakes on all my crazy busy-ness to share a great way to make money: Radial Insight.

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 9.40.56 AM.pngIn addition to doing surveys to earn money, Radial Insight has a program called Receipt Rewards. Receipt Rewards is a new and exciting way to earn rewards from Radial Insight. By submitting receipts for your online shopping at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Jet.com, Costco.com, and DollarGeneral.com, you’ll earn instant rewards.

Please note — you must be a member of Radial Insight’s public opinion panel to participate in Receipt Rewards. If you want to join, leave me a comment with your email address and I’ll shoot you an invite!

 

It’s super easy and quick. I joined and added the Chrome Extension to our browser yesterday and followed the steps (it took less than 15 minutes, BTW) to get everything connected to my Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Costco accounts. I really wasn’t expecting to earn that much, since I’ve been cutting back on our online shopping, but look what was in my inbox this mornings:

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Uh…. WOW. And it’s totally legit because I just cashed out for a $49.60 Amazon Gift card, which I will use to buy stuff that has been on my wish list for a while. And I’ll earn more rewards! There are gift card options for over 25 retailers and restaurants.

Still unsure that Radial Insight Receipt Rewards is for you? Here are the FAQ:

Receipt Rewards Frequently Asked Questions

From which websites does Receipt Rewards accept receipts?
Receipt Rewards accepts receipts from Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com, Jet.com, dollargeneral.com, and Costco.com. If and when we accept receipts from new websites, we’ll be sure to let you know.

How old can the receipts I send in be?
There is no limit to how old your receipts can be.

Are there any types of receipts you do not accept?
We do not accept receipts for Amazon.com digital orders or gift card purchases, balance reloads, or in-store pick-ups from any website.

What do you do with my receipts?
We use the receipts you send us to learn about how Americans shop online and about current retail trends. Your personal information is kept secure and used according to the Radial Insight Receipt Rewards Terms provided below.

How will I get paid?
After you’ve accumulated $1 in Receipt Rewards, and for each full $1 you earn, you’ll receive a Tango Card with your reward. Tango Cards may take 24 hours to be sent.

And if doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, but are still looking for some other ways to make money, check out my post about side hustles.

Friday Freebie Round up!

8101f95433a1458fa8c2371f3b11b849It’s Friday and that means it’s time for freebies!  This week there is a pretty good selection and variety!

Free Samples:

Free Sample of L’Oreal Pure-Clay Charcoal Mask
Free Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Cleanser
Free Sample of JOHNSON’S COTTONTOUCH Newborn Lotion at Walmart
Free Sample of Epistémé Vita-CE Serum

Free Food:

Free Sample Pack of Trident Vibes Gum
Free Halo Top Ice Cream Coupon (void in CA 😦 )
Free Ocean’s Halo Vegan Broth
Free True Citrus True Appreciation Gift
Free Pepsi Zero Sugar or Diet Pepsi at 7-Eleven
Free Box of Flow Water
Free Hormel Compleats for Kroger & Affiliates
Free Coffee & Doughnut at Krispy Kreme

Free Magazines:

Complimentary Subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids
Free Magazines from Mercury Magazines
Complimentary Subscription to Woman’s Day Magazine

Free Events:
Mark your Calendars- Saturday is FREE MUSEUM DAY!!
Clean Out Your Closets, it’s SWAP TIME!!

October is Kids Free Month in San Diego!

San Diego, CA area Residents: Save on your SDG&E bill!

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 9.37.22 PMLooking for more ways to saving money on your power bill without doing crazy stuff like turning off your water heater when you aren’t home and unplugging everything (including your fridge) during the day? Ok, so I’ve been watching episodes of Extreme Cheapskates on Netflix (and it’s scary what people will do to save a few bucks), but I did find out about a great legit program that can help San Diego, CA area residents!

The Energy Savings Assistance Program can help lower your monthly bill, while making your home more comfortable.

We had SDG&E come out when we lived at our last home, and  they replaced our lightbulbs, checked our fridge and microwave to make sure they were energy efficient. They also gave use low flow shower heads, sink nozzles, and they are sent out a contractor to do some landlord approved improvements (replace the worn weather stripping) to make our home a little more energy efficient.

You may rent or own, and if you qualify, SDG&E’s authorized contractors will come to your home and may provide a variety of services. Apply Online or schedule an appointment at 1-866-597-0597. If you are eligible for the Energy Savings Assistance Program, you are also eligible for a CARE savings of 20% on your monthly bill.

If you don’t qualify for that program, you can also check out other ways to save on the SDG&E website, such as changing you plan (yes, there are various plans and pricing structures), and there is a “My Energy Overview” where SDG&E will give you realistic suggestions and tips on how you can lower your electricity and gas consumption to save money.

I went through it today, and made an action plan based on how much I want to spend out of pocket, how much time I have to invest, and how handy we are.  As you can see, none of the stuff is too expensive our crazy, and if i do all of it, we’ll be save up to $771 per year!

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As you can see, I’ve already done some of the items on the list, some will take getting used to- including leaving reminder notes in areas (I’m putting a sticky on the washer to remind myself to switch the water level/washer setting and water temp as needed).

And one thing that I find super helpful- We signed up for Ohm Connect a few years ago and it texts and/or emails you when you should conserve more power due to the demand on the power grid. It’s a win-win situation: You save money on your power bill, and you earn points from Ohm Connect that you can cash out for Paypal, Amazon or Target Gift Cards, OhmConnect store credit (to buy energy efficient thermostats, smart plugs, etc.) You can learn more about OhmConnect here.

What are your tips for keeping your power bill low?

 

**Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you click on links or make purchases. However, I only post about stuff that I like and use for my family.

6 Tips for Getting Ready for Back to School!

back-to-school.jpgIt’s coming… For some of us, back to school is NEXT WEEK! For others it’s later in August, and some lucky folks, have until Labor Day in September. Regardless of when your kids go back, it’s nice to be prepared and save money.

 

Here are a few ideas to help you prepare and stay on budget!

Packing an Awesome School Lunch.

Shop Online to Save Big-  I love shopping online, especially at JCPenney and Kohls. Lots of great deals to be had, coupons, and ship to store to save even more!

There is a backpack and school supply giveaway in Santee on August 19th. More info here.  If you need school supplies sooner, Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber is sponsoring a Back to School Kick off and Community Health Fair on 8/11/18.

If you are worried about being able to provide a nutritious, healthy lunch for your kiddos, The San Diego Food Bank sponsors Neighborhood Distributions throughout the month all over the county. You can go and get free, fresh produce- usually between 10-30 lbs. per family.  No proof of need- Just grab your reusable shopping bags and go!

a72904da152a0795ba05aaecba3a28bc.jpgAdjusting back to the school-year schedule can be a little tough- That’s why we start to get the kids back to bed at their regular time starting the beginning of August. For our kiddos, keeping them busy and active all day, really helps. Trips to the playground, beach, zoo, and pool really help.

We’ll be hitting up the night time zoo this week!

And one last back to school tip: Let your kids play and hang out with friends as much as possible before they go back, especially if they aren’t able to see some of their friends at school. We’re hosting a K’Nex Play Time Party with Tryazon this Wednesday at Shadow Hill Park in Santee! If you and your gang will be in the area, please stop by! There will bea chance to win prizes, yummy snacks, and cool toys!

 

6 Tips for Combating the Mid-Year Frugal Slide

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It’s July, and for most of us, Our New Years Resolutions are a thing of the past. Mr. and I were talking today about ways we could reign in our budget. We’re not making it rain by any means, but… we could make a few changes. Here are my top ten tips, and trust me, I’ve already started incorporating some of these. I’ll have all of them back in the works by weeks’ end.

  1. Back to meal planning and sticking to it. No more trips to Denny’s when I am feeling lazy in the morning, or Mondays after group therapy.  That means I’ll be back to meal planning posts and new recipes too. And I’ll have several “back up dinners” on-hand in case the day gets away from me, or it’s too hot to cook the original meal. I took advantage of the sale on chicken breasts at Smart & Final the other day, and picked up 10 lbs. I came home and cut up the whole half breasts into more manageable sizes, and marinated some of it with different spices and put it in ziploc bags in the freezer. 10 lbs of chicken should get us 5 dinners, plus leftovers from each meal.
  2. Back to maintaining a robust snack bag in the car, refilling it daily, and remembering our water bottles when we leave the house. I fill our water bottles (we have these for the kids and these for the adults- in 40 oz) with water and ice before we leave in the AM and refill them as needed throughout the day in various places.
  3. In conjunction with #2, start taking surveys on receipts for deep discounts and free stuff again. I am Sonic’s text list, so when they have a daily deal that I have change in my car for, the kids and I stop for .50 ice cream cones, 1/2 price drinks (cherry limeade!). Frequently when you check out, there is a survey on the bottom of the receipt that will score you an XL (Route 44) size beverage for free! I really need to get back into stretching the buck.
  4. Check all my apps before I go shopping. I’ve been bad about this over the past few months. I’m sure I’ve missed out on Ibotta deals, Checkout 51 offers, and Cash Dash promos. No More! I’m back, baby!!
  5. Allowance. Yup, just like a teenager, I’m putting myself on an allowance, and Mr. is going to as well. I’m sticking to $40 in the summer, and $25 once we are back to school. This will just be for “fun money”. I still shop around for gas to stay within budget for gas each week. Costco is usually the cheapest.
  6. Keeping eyes open for cheap entertainment. Big Dude is in ESY (summer school) for the next few weeks, so a lot of the traditional summer things that are fun and cheap we haven’t been able to do (like Regal Summer Movies). We’ve mostly been doing fun stuff at the library, which is free, but I think we need to look beyond that. It’s starting to get too hot for park play dates!

I’d love to hear from you about how you combat the frugal slide. What do you do when you feel yourself slipping off your track?

Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

So, I know it’s Tuesday, but we were at Legoland yesterday for the opening of the Deep Sea Adventure. I need to get back to meal planning for the week because without it, I’m getting lazy!

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: 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 buy 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, I plan on making a couple pizza crusts, and put them in the freezer in individual bags so we can have pizza whenever we want without having to call Dominos. I also plan on doing some meal prep this coming weekend for the coming week.

Monday: we had Jack in the Box on the way home from Legoland. We left later and got home even later.

Tuesday: The kids asked for Pancakes, so I whipped up a batch. For them, I just made regular pancakes, for Mister and myself, I made pancakes, but put a slice of bacon in batter after it’s poured onto the griddle. Yum.

Wednesday: BBQ at my parents house. It’s a potluck, and we’re bringing corn to grill, and a tasty green salad. There will be fried chicken, salads of all types, baked beans, and a brownie sundae bar!

Thursday: Pulled Pork. Onions, yellow bell peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, shallots, bay leaves, and about a cup of La Victoria Salsa Verde Pineapple Salsa, All cooked with a pork tenderloin roast. I’ll be starting it Wednesday night.  In the morning I’ll shred the roast with two forks, and vent the lid to cook off the excess moisture.  By 5 PM, the meat will melt in our mouths. I’ll be serving it with tortillas, rice, bans, and a green salad.

Friday: Leftovers, I’m guessing, or maybe quesadillas. Friday is usually date night, but it’s tech week for Mister’s play, and he opens Friday Night.

Saturday: Home Made Pizza- I’ll probably bust out a few extra crusts at the same time to freeze.

Sunday: Lemon Garlic Spaghetti Squash casserole– I’ve got 4 small spaghetti squash that need to be baked! I’m going to try cooking them in the crockpot- I saw a post on Facebook about it a few weeks ago and I saved the video.

What are you having this week for dinner?