2020 Summer Lunch Programs for Kids (And Other Free Food Resources in San Diego)

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I am usually sooo much more on top of these free lunch posts, but…well, life has been a little crazy around here, and all over the world.

Better late than never, so, here we go. In past years schools, libraries, and community centers have hosted these free lunches, this year, however, the list of facilities has decreased.

GUHSDIf you don’t find any facilities near you offering free lunches, I recommend contacting 211, they may have more updated information.

table of hopeAnd if you are in need of food for your entire family, but you find yourself not qualifying for P-EBT or other social services, I recommend that you check out Facebook. There are tons of local groups of neighbors getting together setting up Tables of Hope. In San Diego, there are several. Tables of Hope are small groups of neighbors that have set up food distribution tables within neighborhoods to help those who might be experiencing food insecurity.

Churches and community organizations are offering free food distributions that require no proof of need, like Faith Chapel in Spring Valley. They are offering free produce each Friday through mid-August. You can find out more info here.

And the San Diego Food Bank is continuing their neighborhood distributions– Lots of produce and goodies are available each week. No proof of need or residency requirements.

There are all sorts of organizations looking to help families in need.

Even if you are not in dire need, if you need help stretching your budget, these resources are here for you!

Talk Back: How are you stretching your food budget this summer?

An Awesome Giveaway to Celebrate 1000 Posts!

Last week, we hit 1000 posts- That’s a lot of writing, sharing, and teaching in the past 4 years! To celebrate this milestone, I’ve put together an awesome giveaway.

Bloggers score free swag at every turn- Conventions, events, PR companies send us packages of swag to share, etc. I’ve been collecting swag for this giveaway for a few months (Thanks to the companies that were at the most recent Moms Meet Blogger Event last month- they gave me a lot of goodies to share), and I’ve got a box valued at over $250 to share.

FFC2F03E-48DA-4E1C-9B31-BE3392438284 (1).jpegThis box contains snacks for moms and kids, beauty items (including some AWESOME colleagen drink from NeoCell), adult coloring books, a moleskine journal, Vitamins and supplements (including probiotics and some awesome elderberry syrup), and perhaps my favorite item:

5f9d406f-5325-47a0-a0a3-9241fd5668a9.jpegPlus CBD oil Hemp Balm. It has a light mint scent, and it really helps with muscle and joint pain.

And not pictured but included is a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card, which will be delivered via email to the winner.

I’ll continue to add items to the box until the giveaway concludes- and I’ll be posting pictures of those items on our Instagram feed– don’t forget to follow us!

Entering to win this awesome box of goodies is super easy. Click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway  to enter via our rafflecopter widget (It may not be mobile friendly). You can also enter via our Facebook page here (Not sure this is mobile friendly either).

A winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter on 12/18/19 and will be notified via email. US residents only, local San Diego, CA area winner may arrange for pick up of prize in lieu of package being mailed.

This giveaway is to thank you all for reading and following my blog for 4 years, and some of you have been following me since I started blogging, over 8 years ago.

To Get Started after you visit the rafflecopter widget, leave a comment: What will you spend the $25 Amazon Gift Card on?

 

Fall Recipe Round-Up!

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Thanksgiving in the US is just a few days away, and for most of us, it means cooking a HUGE feast to share with family or friends.

I wanted to share with you some of my family’s favorite fall recipes- They are all pretty tasty, and easy to make. Some are great for Thanksgiving dinner, and some are just tasty fall recipes.

11/18/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

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I didn’t make the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes I had hoped to make last week, but I am eyeing them for this week’s baking, in addition to chocolate chip cookies (always the kiddos favorite).

This week is starting off with a trip to the YMCA for yoga and some time at child watch. There is a lot going on over the next few weeks around here, so I’m trying to get us into a new routine with meal planning and getting more exercise for all of us.

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.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), 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 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  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 Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

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. Last week I did a lot of veggie prep and I’ve got a bunch of bags of veggies in the freezer for meals this week.

  • Monday: breakfast for dinner: Everything bagels with various toppings (options will include scrambled eggs with cheese, avocado slices, bacon crumbles, sliced sharp cheddar, cream cheese), and smoothies.
  • Tuesday: Leftover Kale and Butternut Squash Risotto from Dinnerly (It made a HUGE amount). This time I’ll be adding bacon crumbles and serving it with fresh rolls.
  • Wednesday:  Chicken fajitas with onions and peppers, rice, and refried beans (quesadillas as the main dish for my vegetarian kiddo)
  • Thursday:  Veggie Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday:  Date Night (Dinner out- Woo)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

Cheese and Crafts with Truly Grass Fed & Tryazon!

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Cheese and Crackers!

On Thursday we invited some friends to the park to sample Truly Grass Fed Cheese and paint some wooden crafts.

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 7.33.14 PM.pngIf you haven’t heard of Truly Grass Fed, here is some info about what they are and their philosophy, “The Truly Grass Fed way of dairy farming has been passed down through the generations and has continued to evolve and innovate with the times. Our belief in sustainability and in preserving the beautiful land of Ireland is ingrained in our values and informs our way of life. We love what we do and we’re passionate about maintaining our unique way of farming. We truly believe that ensuring our cows live outside for most of the year, providing them with 95% grass to eat and treating them with care and respect makes for superior-tasting cheese and butter. We are proud of the products we produce, and we are excited to share the abundance of our labors with those looking to discover a little piece of Ireland in an exceptional hunk of cheese or generous spread of creamy butter.” You can learn more here.

IMG_6662The cheese was soo good! Rich, creamy and sharper than most cheddars. The moms gobbled down the samples (seriously, it’s so good). In San Diego, you can find Truly Grass Fed at Vons stores- It’s in the deli with the fancy cheese!

Screen Shot 2019-08-11 at 7.29.56 PM.pngWe snacked and painted, and the kids ran off to play at the playground before it got too hot.

Everyone in attendance received a reusable cloth grocery bag and a money-saving coupon.

And if you want to learn more about Tryazon, their website has tons of information about all of the cool campaigns and parties they have coming up!

I received coupons for free cheese and the party favors (bags and coupons) for free in order to facilitate a group party with friends and their kids. All opinions are my own. I was not financially compensated, however, we did get to keep the charcuterie board.

 

 

#choosetruly #trulygrassfed #tryazon

Is Summer Snacking Wrecking your Grocery Budget?

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Chatting with a friend via Insta yesterday, we were lamenting the “OMG DO THEY EVER STOP EATING!!” of summer vacation.

I’ve never begrudged my kids snackies when they are hungry, but seriously, on days when we are at home, building Legos and watching movies- THEY EAT ALL DAY.  I can’t let them rummage through the cupboard and eat whatever, so I started the snack box (for the pantry) and snack drawer (in the fridge).

We’ve had “The snack box” and the “snack drawer” in our kitchen for about 2 years now.

In the cupboard, I’ve got a basket like this one. It’s full of various types of treats and snacks. Instead of buying individually bagged treats, I often buy a box of whatever (in the photo below it’s animal crackers) and divide the large box into snack-sized Ziploc bags).  It just depends on what is available at Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only on my weekly shopping trip. Those are my go-to snack stores.

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The Snack Drawer in the Fridge
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Pantry Snack Box- Refilled weekly

The Pantry Snack Box contains shelf-stable stuff: Juice boxes, crackers, chips, dried fruit, fruit snacks, individual Peanut/nut butter cups. I usually tuck a couple bags of microwave popcorn too. Sadly, we have none left. I was informed that I *must* rectify that matter tomorrow.

The Fridge Snack Drawer contains some of the following: Cheese sticks, yogurt, Ziploc bags of fruit or veggies (watermelon wedges, strawberries, grapes, carrots, celery, and jicama are just a few favorites), little cups of hummus, guac, ranch dip (homemade with greek yogurt and ranch dip mix).

The snacks vary by week, and I took these pics today- It’s midweek and they are pretty picked over- I did refill the Pantry Snack Box with stuff from the cupboard. That’s my secret- don’t put it all out at once. I stash the extras in the back of the pantry, where tiny arms can’t reach.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know that my weekly family grocery budget is $80. I spend about $25 of my weekly budget on stuff for the snack box/drawer. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the school year, the function of these becomes for packing lunches in the morning. The Big Kid doesn’t really like sandwiches, and as he’s a vegetarian he gets most of his protein from nuts/seed butter and dairy sources.

I also keep Go-gurt style tube yogurts in the freezer- Those are mostly for Bitty, Big Kid doesn’t care for yogurt too often.

For the grown-ups, there is a basket in the pantry full of protein and fiber snack bars (Along with other more “grownup” snacks- which are sometimes new snacks that the kids veto after sampling). I get those at Grocery Outlet or 99 Cents Only. Grocery Outlet locations in my area always have a great variety of protein bars, snack bars, and protein cookie (Like these, which are also a hit with the Big Kid, so I have to dole them out) for a lot less than grocery or club stores.

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Close-up of the Pantry Snack Box. There is a little bit of something for everyone!

This is how my family keeps everyone fed at home and on budget. I’d love to hear about your family’s ideas to solve this issue.

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?