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.

 

My New Favorite Cooking Oil: Malaysian Palm Oil!

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 10.41.45 PM.pngAt The Moms Meet Wow Summit last month, I was introduced to Malaysian Palm Oil. As someone who cooks daily, I’m always looking for new, healthy ingredients to incorporate into the family diet.

I’d never tried palm oil before, nor had I heard of it, so here are some cool things I learned:

  • Palm oil comes from the fruit of a special species of palm tree grown near the equator. Oil palm plantations are incredibly high yielding and also provide an environment where native animals can thrive. You can learn more here.
  • Palm oil comes from the palm oil fruit, not the tree itself, so there is no deforestation. Also each tree produces fruit all year long for up to 25 years! In Malaysia, palm oil is only produced on legal agricultural land in compliance with Good Agricultural Processes. Fifty percent of Malaysia’s land area is mandated forest cover.
  • It’s better for cooking as it is stable at higher cooking temperatures, is free of trans-fatty acids, rich in vitamin E tocotrienols, and red palm oil is also an abundant source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids.  Red Palm oil has more carotene than carrots and tomatoes.
  • I recently used the Malaysian Palm oil in place of Olive Oil when making Pizza Crust last weekend. It didn’t change the crust at all texture-wise, but it did give it more or a golden appearance and a more buttery flavor.
  • Overall, Malaysian Palm oil have a very velvety, butter mouth feel and taste.
  • I like that Malaysian Palm oil is a Non-GMO. More than 90% of other cooking oils (soy, corn, rapeseed/canola) is made from crops grown with genetically modified seeds,
  • Malaysian Palm oil is a natural substitute for partially hydrogenated oils (the trans fats). That’s great news for me, since I cook a lot of scratch!

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 9.30.53 PM.pngI wanted to showcase the oils natural buttery taste and feel, so I whipped up some popcorn on the stove top, the old-fashioned way.

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 9.31.27 PM.pngAll you need is:

  • 3 T. Malaysian Palm Oil
  • 1/2 C. popcorn kernels
  • Whatever seasoning you like (I like salt and pepper)

Directions:

  1. In a large pot (6+ quarts, I have this one), heat the oil and add 3 kernels. Cover with the lid,
  2. Cook on medium-high heat until kernels pop. Remove the pot from the heat, scoop out popped kernels, and add in the rest of the unpopped popcorn kernels.
  3. Cover with the lid, and give the pot a good shake (use potholders!). Let sit off heat for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
  4. Put pot back on the heat (medium-high), set the lid slightly askew, so the steam may escape. Shake the pot a few more times. Once the popping starts, it pops quickly.
  5. Once the popping has slowed, remove from the heat and pour the popcorn into a bowl and top with desired seasonings, butter, etc.

A big thanks to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council for the bottle of Palm Oil and Popcorn to try out this recipe. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

I can’t wait to substitute Palm Oil into my favorite recipes!

 

Exploring Legoland:Assisted Access Pass

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“No Mommy, I don’t want to have my picture taken with a shark, I want to pick my nose.” Margaret

Recently, the kids and I got a sneak peak of the Lego City: Deep Sea Adventure ride. It was great fun- it combines a submarine ride, a treasure hunt, and Legos! The kids had a blast. Henry loved getting his picture taken with Lego “Sharky”, and of course the building station to entertain the kids while we waited in line.  I like that the building station has directions and information about real life fish and ocean wildlife that kids can build with the Legos found at the building station.

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Henry loves Legoland, and so does Margaret. I love taking them. In addition to fun rides, there are tons of areas for kids to play, run, build Lego, and splash (in addition to the water park). What I really like is that they offer an Assisted Access Pass.

A lot of readers don’t know this, but Henry is ASD (That’s Autism Spectrum Disorder). So going on rides, waiting in line with a lot of people, loud noises, and weird smells can trigger him and lead to meltdowns, or just shutting down (sensory overload). Thankfully Legoland offers the Assisted Access Pass. For anyone with a disability, pick one up at Guest Services near the entrance. The pass entitles the pass holder, plus up to five additional people in your party to by-pass the regular line, and wait in a shortened line.

After you get into the by-pass line, the Model Citizen (that’s the staff member) will sign your pass and give you the next time that you can utilize the pass again. You can use it all day. We usually use it 3-4 times to go on the rides the kids really want to go on and have a long line. The wait time to use the pass again can be passed at a splash pad, play area, or building station. There is lots to see and do besides rides. There are quiet areas where kids (and adults) can decompress and relax at both First Aid and The Baby Care Center.

469ABCF7-367C-4837-BF98-445D13D1A387.jpgI also like that you can bring your own snacks into Legoland too. I pack our backpack full of snacks and treats, and our reusable Camelback bottles , (which you can refill with ice and water for free at anyone of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines throughout the park).  But- the kids and I do love the goodies and treats at Legoland. Especially, Granny’s Apple Fries.

If you and your kiddos are ravenous after 5pm in the park, check out this deal:

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 8.56.38 PM.pngKIDS EAT FREE AFTER 5 PM THROUGH 8/18/2018 * Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen, Wok ‘N’ Bowl Ramen, Garden Deli & Café, Pizza Pasta Buffet and Smokehouse BBQ only. Offer is available for a limited time, see locations for availability and details. Kids receive one FREE Kids’ Meal with the purchase of one full-price adult entrée. Offer is available after 5pm at Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen, Wok ‘N’ Bowl Ramen, Garden Deli & Café, Pizza Pasta Buffet and Smokehouse BBQ at LEGOLAND® California. Adult entrée purchase equals one FREE Kids’ Meal. Cannot be combined with any other discount or offer. Restrictions apply. The right of final interpretation resides with LEGOLAND California Resort. Prices, times and schedules subject to change without notice.

The kids dig the Pizza and Pasta Buffet.  I dig Kids Eat Free.

And here are photos of Henry pretending to be Arthur- The king, not the aardvark.

 

For our family, Legoland is a great way to spend the day together on our schedule, with little to no stress.  Talk Back: What is your favorite way to spend time with your family that low key and enjoyable?

 

 

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?

Mom’s Money Summer Saving Tip #1: Keep them Fed!

file0002134801752.jpgIt seems like the second we pull out of the garage, two little voices announce in chorus, “I’m Hungry!!!” It’s not like they go without meals, like some sort of Dickens era soot faced moppet… But there is something about leaving the house that makes kids hungry. Especially when you are out and about during the summer.

To combat the chorus, we have a small backpack (Henry’s Pre-school Cars backpack) that is full of shelf stable snacks and drinks. While we are out having adventures, if the chorus starts up, I can pull out the backpack and soon everyone is happy.

Here are a few of our family’s favorite snacks and other stuff I keep in our snack bag (Amazon affiliate links for some items that you may have never seen):

  1. Re-usable water bottles (I fill them daily). Each child has their own, and I have a larger one. I put lots of ice in mine in addition to water. I also carry extra water in my truck at all times (in case of emergency, but frequently the emergency is just hot, thirsty kiddos).
  2. Powdered drink sticks. Dollar Tree and 99 Cents Only has lots of great flavors to chose from.
  3. Freeze dried Fruit. Bitty Bird likes strawberries, Henry and I love pineapple.
  4. Protein bars, granola bars, goldfish crackers, Beanies (they are for toddlers, but, both kids love them), fruit squeezy pouches, Yogurt squeezy pouches, applesauce cups, individual cups of peanut butter, crackers to go with the PB (usually Ritz), individual cups of water packed fruit and veggies, Pirates Booty, home made trail mix, ziploc bags of cereal, and depending on what is on sale, juice boxes/pouches or sometimes shelf stable milk boxes/pouches.
  5. In a zipper pouch (this one), I keep hand wipes, plastic utensils, straws, and napkins.  I also carry a ziploc bag with extra ziplocs in it, and a few small trash bags.

While the initial outlay of money to buy a backpack and stock of food to keep in the car snack bag and water bottles way be steep (it was about $65 for us), you will save that much money in just a few weeks in the summer. You’ll be able to avoid drive-thru lines, and you can better control what your family is eating.

file0001779824833.jpgWhen we are going to be gone all day, I also pack a small soft sized cooler bag with blue ice and cold treats like frozen tubes of yogurt, berries, cheese, and cold cuts. I like using re-usable plastic containers, instead of zip top bags. They are usually better for keeping food cold and for squishable items like berries in good condition. These are all the same things that we eat for lunch during the school year, so our food budget in the summer does not increase.

Besides keeping your budget in check, there is another upside to having kids that eat regularly (even on the go): Behavior changes, like tantrums, can occur when kids blood sugar dips or they are hungry. Henry frequently doesn’t realize that he’s hungry until he’s OMGOSH SO HUNGRY that he’s Hangry. I offer him snacks every few hours in the summer, as we are so frequently on the go out with friends or at events in the summer during lunch time.

The main reason I use a backpack instead of a box is that I can quickly grab the bag out of the car and toss it into the basket of the stroller when we hit up the zoo, YMCA for swimming, or the park.

I’d love to hear what kind of snacks you take on the go for your summer adventures!

 

Freebies at 7/11 through the end of the year!

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Woo Hoo! 7/11 is treating us every Monday and Friday through the end of the year! Download the 7Rewards app (just go to your favorite app store online) to your phone or other mobile device and you can start and end your work week with freebies!

Stride Gum offer valid on 11/11, 11/18, 11/25, 12/2, 12/9, 12/16, 12/23 and 12/30/16 only.
Belvita offer valid on 11/14, 11/21, 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19, 12/26/16 and 1/2/17 only.

Fine Print: Quantities are limited. Check coupon in app to see if offer is still available. Limit of one offer per member per day. Program available only to members of the 7Rewards™ Program and available only at participating 7-Eleven® Stores, excluding Hawaii. Go to the 7-Eleven Mobile App for additional terms and conditions of 7Rewards.