My Favorite Things- Spring/Summer Edition

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It’s Springtime! Time for renewal, getting outdoors, and fun adventures. Here are a few of the things that have been making life easier for me as of late…

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 3.54.00 PM.pngThis cute 5×8 Notebook from Shutterfly.  Mine says, “Plots, Schemes, & Misc. Shenanigans”.  It fits into my purse and It’s big enough to where I can actually write and sketch. It’s got lined paper, which is great since I usually draw patterns for upcoming projects.

And what good is a notebook without a pen? This Click Six Gel Pen from Ooly is my favorite pen, and have been for a while. I scored one at Influential Summit in Carlsbad back in February.

Most of ya’ll know that I’m a frugal dame, and that means using tech until it reaches the end of it’s useful life. For me, that means I’m rocking an Apple iPhone 5S. Yeah, yeah, stop laughing. Anyway, one of the things that happens when smartphones get old is that battery life goes poof. To make up for that, I keep a zipper pouch in my purse with a plug (like this), charging cables (including one that is 6 foot long), and a couple external batteries/chargers.  It sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

And the Pouch? It’s one of these cute ZipIt pouches. the best part is that it’s 100% zipper and it unzips into one, long zipper.

Ok, getting out of my purse, and getting back to the house, a few things that I’m digging to help me stay organized at home include:

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 4.20.30 PM.pngThis rad Meal Planner! It comes in a 5×7 pad, I just peel one off, fill it out, and stick it on the fridge (using one of the many free fridge magnets from Shutterfly- seriously, they have free codes all the time!).

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.

And it’s now a lot easier to get the kids to do their chores with this cool chore/reward chart.

I got it from Wal-mart.com, but Amazon sells it too (and it was cheaper). You choose which chores are appropriate for your kids. I don’t use the little round magnets with stars, I just mark them off with a whiteboard marker.

And personal health-wise, I’ve been digging a few new products:

Diva Cup– Scored it at MommyCon last fall. It is easy to use and clean. I will warn you ladies, it’s not for those of you who are squeamish. But, most moms have seen some shit (literally and figuratively), so it’s no problem.

Hot Sticks– I’ve had these things for YEARS, but only recently have I truly appreciated how awesome they are. I have a lot of very fine hair, so a curling iron doesn’t work- my hair doesn’t stay curly, but hot sticks stay in your hair for 45 minutes to an hour. That amount of time with the heat really locks the curl into my hair. and even without mousse or hairspray, my hair will stay curly for a whole day. I have two sets. I’m wearing them as I type.

Talk Back: So I wanna hear from you… What are some of your favorite things?

 

 

Eating Healthy on a Budget: It Can Be Done!

f40fab9210aee93a83df63133f5de09bSunday Night I went to the grocery store to pick up milk, bread, and a few other things.

I spent $42 and it was not all that much stuff. While I was waiting in line, the lady behind me in line was going through her coupons, and her grocery list. We got to talking, I showed her the store app, where she was able to find a few more coupons. We started talking about how expensive it was to eat healthy, and I confessed to her that this was not my weekly shopping trip, I was just picking up stuff that I only buy at Food4Less:

  • Milk (it’s cheapest at FFL),
  • A specific kind of higher protein bread (it’s the cheapest place to buy this type of bread and has no High Fructose Syrup),
  • A specific kind of popscicles
  • 5 lb bag of bananas (cheapest place to buy that many bananas)
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This doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

And I picked up a few other misc. things that we needed and were on sale (cheese, oranges, and a 5 lb. bag of Gala apples), and a 2 liter of diet Cherry Pepsi and a jar of maraschino cherries (Mama needs a cocktail sometimes, OK?).

She asked about my grocery budget and where I shop the rest of the time. I told her my shopping strategy, after I make my grocery list:

My Top Ten Deals at 99 Cents Only– Start there for fresh produce. Salad, carrots, celery, berries, pineapples, zucchini, squash (all kinds), onions, potatoes are all types of produce that are regularly stocked. They usually have other interesting seasonally available produce too. They also have great sauces, condiments, herbs and spice blends.

Keep a Price Book- I know the best place to buy Milk, cheese, bread, and butter. I keep my price book in my phone now, but I used to use a little spiral bound notebook that lived in my purse.

Stock up on food that you will eat frequently when it does on sale. I’m not talking about fresh produce that can’t be kept (like lettuce), but if you find a good deal on strawberries, for example, chop and freeze some for smoothies or baking, make fruit leather, or dry some (they are really tasty dehydrated). Bread can be frozen, so can butter! Canned goods, shelf stable foods are perfect for stocking up. I also like stocking up on chicken when it’s on sale. I can butcher a whole chicken in a few minutes, and I frequently will break up large packages of chicken breasts into meal sized portions, season them, and put them into the freezer. Learn more about meal prep here.

For our family, meal prep and meal planning saves us a lot of time and money. There are always multiple choices for each meal at our finger tips, so the allure of getting food from take-away is gone. I always have a batch of pizza dough in the freezer too! I make two batches once a week- one for the freezer, and one to go in the fridge that gets used within 1-2 days of making.

Use Cashback/Couponing Apps. Here is the list I use frequently.

Here is an article I wrote a few years ago that has more tips on how to get “Extreme” savings without being an “Extreme Couponer” (which by the way isn’t even possible anymore thanks to that stupid TLC show and coupon abuse).

It doesn’t matter what your food budget is, you can still eat well! It may take a little prep work each week, but the health of your family is worth it, right?

If you are on a very tight budget or are facing food insecurity, here is a list of San Diego based food resources that offer healthy food.

Updates, and Giveaways, and Favorite Things!

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Thanks to the awesome stylists at the Dove Dry Shampoo and styling bar, I left MommyCon with an Awesome ‘Do!

Hey all! I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately and I wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. Two weeks ago, I went to Moms Meet Wow Summit, and this last weekend I went to Mommycon. Both weekends were full of learning, fun, and meeting so many new moms and brands. Mommycon was a great time to meet moms, and learn all about momm-ing, baby wearing, and women’s health. If you missed it this year, they’ll be back next year!

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.02.47 AM.pngRight now I’ve got an awesome giveaway for a prize pack of Sticky Lickits over on Instagram! I’m picking a winner on 11/14/18- so there is still time to enter.

I’ll be celebrating the upcoming holidays with giveaways over the next few months,  make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so you can keep up to date on the next giveaways.

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Crafting with our BFF!
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Mugging for the Camera!

We’ve also been doing the super fun Mall Stars monthly crafts at our local Starwood Branded Mall. Every month there is a fun craft for the kids, sponsored by a local business/childcare center, and snacks provided by one of the food establishments in the mall. This month it was decoupage candle lanterns, with mini-bons and lemonade from Cinnabon.

IMG_2424.jpgBesides that, I recently helped style a Marty McFly costume for the New Children’s Museum Gala. It was tons of fun to do, and the best part was it cost less than $30 out of pocket! I spent a few days combing through thrift stores and looking online, but I found a puffy vest and jean jacket for a steal! Sears is a great place to find lots of new costume staples that may be harder to source in thrift shops- That’s where the puffy vest  came from!

If you’d like to learn more about costuming on the cheap, check out my articles here and here.

I haven’t shared my favorite things with you in a while, and I’ve got a batch of them!

Everything Bagel Seasoning. It’s soooo good on avocado, poached eggs, cream cheese on top of a plain bagel. I’m pretty sure that this stuff is good on damn near anything. You can also get Everything Bagel Seasoning at your local Costco on the seasoning aisle.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.26.56 PM.pngPlus CBDoil – CBD Spray (in Peppermint). I have friends who use CBD oil for a lot of reasons and I was interested in trying it, but I wanted to learn more without a hard sell, so while I was at the Wow Summit, I took a class all about CBD- How it works, what it can be used for, and even how to gauge dosing. If you follow my on Instagram, you know that Bitty broke my bottle this morning. I’m bummed, especially since it was really helping me with the anxiety I’ve been feeling that my prescription meds haven’t been able to touch. Thank fully I have some gummies to tide me over until I can order more.

 
True Lemon I love True lemon- It’s a great way to make all the water I drink taste like something without adding calories or weird faux sweetness.  I was worried about all of the waste from the packets. I found this big 10.6 ounce bottle on Amazon. And the bottle is recyclable!

 

 

The Field Agent App– Ok, so this isn’t a tangible “thing”, but I’ve been doing a lot of audits and secret shops with Field agent over the past month. I’ve earned a few hundred dollars with less than 2 hour work. I time the work to line up with my errands and other trips out of the hose, so no additional gas is wasted. You can learn more about Field Agent here.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about what you are up to lately, or what your new favorite discovery has been!

Summertime Plans on a Budget!

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School is out for us on Tuesday. That means I’ve got 67 days to fill with adventures and “excitement” as my 6 year put it. No pressure, right?

Here are just a few things we’ll be doing to have lots of fun, but not spend a ton of money.

  • Taking advantage of free community events! Our local libraries have tons of fun events during the month.  Lego Club, craft afternoons, story time for pre-schoolers, and our local library has a great slate of summer events, including a summer reading program!
  • Using passes and memberships that we’ve already paid for. For us, that’s the San Diego Zoo and the YMCA. I plan on taking full advantage of the YMCA membership daily to get the kids out of the house and playing with others, as well as swimming at the activity pool.
  • Packing snacks and drinks when we leave the house. Henry’s pre-school backpack has become our go to snack backpack. I wrote about our family snack backpack yesterday.
  • Meeting up with friends at the park to play. We love playing at the park. It’s a great way to get out the wiggles, meet new friends, and catch up with old friends. There are tons of groups on Meetup.com or Facebook. If you haven’t checked out Momco on Facebook, it’s a great way to find moms looking to meet up and play!
  • I love to arrange craft or science get togethers. The kids get to make something or try a science project and play with friends. I’m not really into Pinterest all that much, but I do have a Pinterest Board with some of the science and crafts we want to do this summer.  I try to use the supplies we have on hand. I find that a lot of the supplies can be picked up at 99 Cents Only, or cheaply at Target.
  • We’ll also be painting a lot of rocks and hiding them all over this summer. Have you heard of Santee Rocks? Both kids love it and it’s a great way to get kids out and active!  It’s an awesome Facebook Group. Learn more here.
  • The Beach! I know not everyone has the beach near them, but if you do- take advantage!  Google your favorite beach and Tide Chart and find out when low tide it. Low tide is the perfect time to hunt for shells. If you are in San Diego, or will be visiting this summer, check out Coronado for the SS Monte Carlo. It’s a sunken ship that is visible and explorable at low tide.
  • Don’t forget the $1.00 kids movies at Regal Cinemas!
  • Here are a few of my other tips for a fun, frugal San Diego Summer.

Vacations on the Cheap, Part 1 (The budget)

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A shot of us at D-land in September of 2013!

I was cleaning out some files yesterday and I came across some notes from when we planned our family vacation to Disneyland 2 years ago. I know with Summer vacation coming up, a lot of you will be planning trips to The House of Mouse and other locales. Here are a few tips to help you save on your summer fun!

The first part of planning a trip is budget. Where you’ll go, how long you’ll stay, what you’ll do while you’re there, those things are all (sadly) dictated by budget.

When we plan a trip, in order to keep our costs down, I’ve formulate a budget that takes into consideration a few things:

  1. We’re getting a m/hotel room with a kitchenette. That way we can eat some meals in room and save money. The average price per person per meal in most tourist areas is $10.00 plus tax and tip, so just by eating in our room three times we’re saving $90.00 plus tax and tip. The difference in price between a m/hotel room without a kitchen is about $10/day. For us, it’s worth it.
  2. I’ll be using high value and free item coupons for some of the menu items we’ll be eating. I trade coupons online on site like HotCouponWorld, and of course, my local coupon club. (For more info on coupon clubs and online forums, check out this post)
  3. I use as many deals and savings programs to earn gift cards and cash to defray costs. I’m save Swagbucks for a Paypal payout, I save Mypoints points for a gift certificate or a Paypal payout,  And if we happen to eat out, we’ll try to eat at Mogl restaurants to earn a little green back!
  4. I save various gift cards as well to be used on the trip (like the $20 pre-paid Visa Gift Cards I earn from SBKC)

So with our budget in mind, I set to finding a m/hotel that fits our budget and has the amenities we are looking for: swimming pool, complimentary continental breakfast, and free parking.

 

 

Ten Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!

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For those of us living in CA, NV, AZ, TX we have the opportunity to save money by shopping the great deals at 99 Cents Only. 99 Cents Only is different from other discount/dollar stores in that the majority of locations feature a refridgator and freezer case with a variety of name brand foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to fesh and frozen foods, most locations have a great diverse stock of shelf stable foods too.
And 99 Cents only has more than food, they carry the same types of items that you have grown accustomed to seeing at discount/dollar stores, such as health and beauty aids, school supplies, and kitchen tools.
While 99 Cents Only does not accept manufacturer coupons, they frequently send out coupons that are good for a free item when you purchase X number of items (most recently they have been buy 5 items, receive one free). And there are a few apps that are not retailer specific (such as checkout51, snap by groupon, Mobisave, berrycart, shrink,and shopnimium) that you can submit your receipts to to earn a little extra cash back!
Not everything is .9999/each, many of the items are .7999/each, .6999.each, 2/.9999, or 4./9999. .9999? What? That’s right, after many years in business, last year 99 cents only had to increase prices just a fraction to keep up with inflation. So at .9999/each (or really, rounded up to $1.00), many things are still a screaming deal.
Here are just a few of the great deals that you shouldn’t pass up:
Carrots. A 20 ounce bag (that’s 1.25 lbs) of baby carrots is .9999. At most regular grocers The same bag is upwards of $2.50.
Bagged greens. Most locations carry multiple brands including Dole, Ready Pac, and Earthbound Organics (just to name a few), which can sell at most mainstream grocers for upwards of $4.00/bag!
Disposable person care items, such as cotton swabs.  1000 cotton swabs for $1.00! That’s a lot of clean ears! A box of 500 or so can run upwards of $5.00 at most mass merchandisers.
Men’s dress socks. I’m serious. At $1.00/pair, you’re saving approximately 75-80% over department store prices. Most of hubs socks come from 99 cents only, and he’s been wearing them for about 2 years.
Cake mix. I’m talking name brand here. Unless there is a sale and you have a coupon at the local grocery store, you’ll be spending a few bucks for a cake mix. Drop by your local 99 cents only and take a gander, you’ll be surprised by the variety and brands of cake mixes available. Last time I stopped in to my local store, they had Pillsbury cake mixes!
Bananas. Most grocery stores in San Diego charge .65/-.80/lb for bananas! Most 99 cents locations have bananas for just .49/lb. some select locations have 3 lbs/$1.00!
School/art supplies. Perfect for the parent of an artistically minded kiddo or a homeschooler, most locations have a great selection of construction paper, paint, craft kits, and bulletin board supplies. We get most of our craft supplies at 99 cents only!
Party Supplies, from disposable plates and utensils to goody bag filler, most locations have a decent variety. Not just plain colors, but fun themed goodies as well. Our local store has princess, pirate, minion, TMNT, frozen, sweet 16 themed party supplies.
Bread. This photo isn’t the best representation of what they have most of the time,cut most stores have a variety of fresh breads from companies like Sarah Lee, Orowheat/Arnold’s, and bread in the freezer case too from brands like Ecce Pannis and Texas Toast. Don’t forget to look for bagels and buns too!
Ethnic spices. Making a batch of menudo? Trying your hand at curry? Need Jugo? Don’t forget to check your local 99 cents only for ethnic spices before you start cooking! I get a large bag of bay leaves twice a year and split it with a friend. Perfect for soups and stews!
There is a lot of stuff that may be a good deal, depending on what your rock bottom price for specific items is. To determine if something is a good deal for my family, I keep a price book with the prices of the top 20 items I buy most often at the 5 stores I shop at most in my area. You can learn more about price books here.
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Yummy fresh strawberries- right off the truck!

Recently I spied .79/can Starkist Tuna can, 10 lbs of potatoes for .99, 1 lb packages of fresh Dole Strawberries for just .99, and name brand ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce for just .69/each.

If you are hesitant to buy produce at a discount store because you are concerned about freshness, call your local store and ask them what day their produce truck comes.  Most of our local stores receive their produce truck on Thursday mornings, so I am ready to shop for fresh fruits and veggies as soon as I drop the Kiddo off at school.
For my family, 99 Cents Only is the starting point for my shopping each week.  I start by filling my cart with tons of fresh fruit and veggies, checking the freezer case for any deals, and picking up any needed canned goods that are not on sale elsewhere. By starting my shopping at 99 Cents Only, I am able to keep our food budget at $50/week! When there are really good deals (like the case of Larabars for only 99 Cents!) I tend to spend a few extra bucks and stock up, since quantities are limited and 99 Cents Only doesn’t offer rain checks.
What’s your favorite thing to purchase at 99 Cents Only?