Michael’s: Valentine’s Day Makers Fest (2/8/2020)

IRC23123_VMF_AdultTShirtLooking for something fun to do this coming weekend? Check out your local Michaels Craft Store!

  • Date: Saturday, February 8, 2020
  • Time: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Come make a Lots Of Love Vinyl Decal Shirt: Come punch designs out of vinyl to create a Valentine’s Day T-shirt. Buy the shirt, and the supplies to decorate it will be provided!

Other crafts going on include on 2/8/2020:

  • Valentine’s Day Cards: Create cute “love bug” or pretty watercolor cards to give loved ones! FREE, all supplies included.
  • Sweetheart Cookies: Learn easy ways to decorate Valentine’s Day Treats. FREE, all supplies included.
  • Fabulous Friendship Bracelets: Make these beaded bracelets to give to your BFF for Valentine’s Day! FREE, all supplies included.

Michael’s has all sorts of fun free and low-cost classes coming up for kids and adults. Find out about classes near you here.

Tips to Reign In An Out Of Control Family Budget: Let’s Start in the Kitchen!

707538835876fc5c438018d57701bc2f.jpgUntil the end of the year, I’ll be posting some articles with realistic tips and methods to save money and reign in spending. None of these are going to the same old “Clip coupons, grow your own garden, etc.” that’s all over the internet- and honestly, here in Southern California, the old, standby advice isn’t going to help you. Grow a garden to save money? Water is so expensive here!

Clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales/circulars will save you a fraction of the amount that it used to. In years past, I was saving 60-80% with coupons and store sales. Now, I’m lucky to save 50%.  With all of the restrictions on coupons (example: limit one like coupon per day- LAME), stockpiling to save money isn’t always possible without a lot of work/trips to different stores (and that’s not saving time). We’re moving past that, and delving into other ways to save money and take advantage of opportunities that are out there.

Today we are going to start with my pet project: Saving in the kitchen! If you feel like you’re spending too much money on food and groceries, here are my recommendations for getting the grocery spending under control:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/freezer and pantry. Make a note of the food that you have on hand. I like using the kitchen inventories here. This will also give you an opportunity to clean out food from the kitchen that has expired or that you won’t eat. Unexpired food that you won’t eat, can be donated to a local charity.
  2. Now that you have a handle on what you have in your kitchen, take a look at the list and come up with some recipes or meals that can be created with what you have on hand. You’d be surprised by how many meals you have in your kitchen! Make a list of the meals that you can make with what you have. And plan on having one or two of those per week. This will help keep grocery spending down. Make a list of meals that you can make but require one or two ingredients (like fresh vegetables), and add those ingredients to your next few shopping lists. By relying on what you already have in your home, you will be keeping your out of pocket down.
  3. Before you head to the store, take a look at the sale flyer which is available online, and see what is on sale. Plan meals around food that is in season and on sale. Continue to use coupons, but don’t go out of your way to subscribe to multiple newspapers per week to get a hold of lots of the same coupons.  Don’t forget rebate apps! Use of these apps gets us $10-$20/month cashback, sometimes double that, depending on what bonus offers are available- Fetch Rewards and Ibotta often have Bonus offers.
  4. Track your spending over a few weeks to see how much you are spending, and what you are buying. If you still find that you’re spending a lot of money on food, I would try shopping at a different store. I find that even with club card sales, and rebate apps like Fetch Rewards, some grocery stores (like Vons) are just too expensive to do my weekly shopping. I love starting my shopping at $.99 only. I am able to get a lot of snacks, name-brand treats, and fresh fruits and veggies there, and I am still able to stay on budget. Another fun place where I save money is Grocery Outlet. They have great prices on cheese, fruit juice, coffee, and frozen meat. They also have an interesting selection that changes weekly: snack food, protein bars/cookies, and cereal. If you are in the military, a military family, or a veteran, consider shopping at the commissary. Here is my article about saving money at the commissary. 
  5. Consider cooking more from scratch. It is healthier, and pantry stables are generally pretty cheap (the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies runs about $3.00 and yields 4-5 dozen cookies, while a package of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store is about $4.00+ and is usually 3 dozen or so).  I buy fruits and veggies whole and break them down and pack them into serving size bags. You can learn more about that and Batch Cooking here.

If you are still having a hard time keeping your grocery budget in check, or if you are finding that the ends don’t meet, consider the San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program. No documentation is needed to receive food assistance from a
Neighborhood Distribution site where people can receive fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, based on availability. Families are encouraged to bring reusable bags or
a cart with them to carry the food items.

There are programs out there to help those struggling to feed their families here in San Diego County. Here is my list of San Diego County Food Resources.

I work very hard to keep my family on a budget, I work very hard to make sure that we are saving money and taking advantage of as many deals and opportunities that present themself. I know that this is not something that everyone wants to do or something that everyone can do. There are so many programs and discounts out there available for various groups of individuals.

Tomorrow, we’re tackling saving money on the entertainment budget.

12/2/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

We survived Thanksgiving break. Now it’s back to school, and back to work!

I did not go to the grocery store last week, other than to pick up milk. So last night I hit the store to stock up- The pantry was pretty bare. I ran out of flour- and for someone who bakes a lot.. well, I was pretty shocked.

This week we’re relying on a couple meal prepped items from the freezer, they come in so handy, especially on Mondays when we have so much going on. The big kid has a 2-day research study this week- he’s so excited!

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. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday: Chicken Fajita bowls with rice, beans, grilled onions and peppers
  • Tuesday: Baked Ziti & Steamed veggies
  • Wednesday:  Butter Chicken, jasmine rice, and green salad
  • Thursday:  Soup (we have a couple kinds in the freezer), Grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple crisp
  • Friday:  Breakfast for dinner: Corned Beef Hash, poached eggs, toast, and fruit
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:  Pulled Pork, baked potatoes, steamed veggies

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?

11/25/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

This week is Thanksgiving here in the US, so the kids are off school all week, and I’ve got tons of fun stuff planned! Zoo, making Turkey Cookies with the kids and my niece, playing at the park, and of course, daily visits to the YMCA. Meals will probably be light because we’re super stoked for all the yummy treats on Thursday.  I’m taking this dish on Thursday!

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: Smoothies and Dave’s Killer Bagels with Cream cheese.
  • Tuesday: Quesadillas, green salad, fruit
  • Wednesday:  Chicken and Veggie soup
  • Thursday:  THANKSGIVING FEAST WITH FAMILY
  • Friday:  Some sort of Thanksgiving leftover based meal (perhaps a Moist Maker Sandwich- Friends fans know what I mean)
  • 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?

House Party by Ripple Street: Host a Scooby-Doo Birthday Party!

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 4.13.02 PMAs I type this, I am eating Scooby Snacks. I love these things.

Host a Scooby-Doo™ Birthday Party

Gather your gang and throw your own Scooby-Doo™ themed party celebrating 50 years of spooky, mysterious fun—complete with a special screening of Scooby Doo! Return to Zombie Island!

This event is only open to residents of the US.

If you’re selected and confirmed as a host, your exclusive Party Pack will contain:

  • Scooby-Doo themed party supplies from Party City
  • An exclusive Scooby-Doo Funko Pop! Flocked Vinyl Figure from BoxLunch
  • Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island DVD
  • KEEBLER® Scooby-Doo! Graham Cracker Sticks
  • And so much more!

SCOOBY-DOO and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (s19)

To learn more or apply or this party, click here

 

Sam’s Club – Join for $45 Get $50 in Savings


We have a Sam’s club close by, so I just signed up for this deal!

Join Sam’s Club for $45 and get $50 in savings. GET A $20 GIFT CARD AND $30 IN INSTANT SAVINGS*

  • Member’s Mark all beef franks 3 lb. 12 ct. Discount $7.00 off
  • Member’s Mark 80/20 or 90/10 ground beef Discount $10.00 off
  • Member’s Mark Hot Dog or Hamburger Buns 24 ct. Discount $3.00 off
  • Member’s Mark Loaded Potato Salad 48 oz. Discount $4.00 off
  • Member’s Mark Purified Bottled Water 45 or 80 pk. Discount $3.00 off
  • Member’s Mark Cookies – 18ct. various in Deli ($5.98 retail value) Discount FREE

There are tons of awesome things about Sam’s Club, including free samples from Freeosk, in-store offers, and Field Agent frequently has audits at Sam’s Club Locations!

 

Talk Back: What’s your favorite thing from Sam’s Club?

Recipe: Maple Bacon Peanut Butter Cookies!

DUDE!! These cookies were specially requested and made for a potluck and man, did they evaporate.

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Now, these cookies didn’t get really brown, but I think that may be because of the maple syrup used instead of white sugar, which causes cookies to brown while baking.

57792679873__0A2B3ED9-0104-41A0-84E8-BACCC15354AA

Maple Bacon Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4C. Coconut oil
  • 1/4C. Peanut Butter
  • 1/4c. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 T. Maple extract
  • 1.5 C Kodiak Flapjack Mix
  • 1 C. Oats
  • 8 pieces of bacon, cooked, drained, and chopped

 

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine first 5 ingredients. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Slowly combine the dry ingredients with wet ingredients until incorporated.
  4. Add chopped bacon pieces, and stir to combine.
  5. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (or use silicone baking pad.)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  7. Allow to rest on the cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Protein Peanut Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 7.56.56 AM.pngIt can be hard to get the big kid to eat enough protein. He doesn’t eat meat, and a lot of the non-meat protein sources are foods that don’t appeal to him (or have “gross” textures- So is the life of a kid with ASD).

Like moms who have been trying to sneak in healthy foods for ages, I’ve been trying to find ways to add protein to foods he already enjoys without making the textures or flavors “weird”.

I really love the Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix– You can substitute it 1 for 1 with AP flour in baking to ramp up the protein in your baked goods without sacrificing flavor or texture.

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 7.57.18 AM.pngI am also a huge fan of peanut flour, like PBFit. I add it to shakes and baked goods all the time. I decided to play around with it in our favorite cookie recipe, to see if we could add some protein and flavor without making the cookies “weird” in texture or flavor. Luckily everyone in the house LOVES peanut butter cookies.

I entered all the ingredients into to Spark Recipes Nutrition Calculator to get the information on the amount of protein per serving. If you make more or less cookies with cookie dough, your nutritional info will vary slightly.

Protein Peanut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 18 servings or 2 cookies each (approx 3 dozen cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup softened butter or butter flavored crisco (NO NOT USE SPREAD OR MARGARINE)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix
  • 1/2 cup PBFit
  • 12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter/shortening
  3. add sugars one at a time and mix until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated fully.
  5. Mix in soda, salt, flour and PBFit. Once all are blended into dough, add chocolate chips.
  6. drop tablespoon sized dough balls on cookie sheets that have been greased, or are lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad.  I prefer the silicone baking pads.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cookies may not be golden or as brown as you are used to- but they are done. Let cookies rest 1-2 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack.

Notes: Cookies contain less sugar than most traditional cookie recipes, which means they do not get as brown in the oven as they cook. This recipe makes approx. 3 dozen cookies and each serving of two cookies contains 275 calories and 7 grams of protein.

 

1/28/19 Meal Plan Monday

stemarie_1650skitchen

Mr. husband is on the second week of his cleanse.Much like last week,  the kids and I will will be eating some similar foods, it’s hard to convince the kids to eat kale and steamed salmon night after night.

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 tan usual. With Mr. on the cleanse, we’ll be eating a lot of whole foods/vegetables raw, and an old family friend steel cut oats will be coming to breakfast.

  • Monday: Leftover Pizza, fruit salad
  • Tuesday: Vegetarian crockpot chili
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner- Blueberry pancakes (Kodiak flap jacks), fruit salad. Blueberries are on sale this week at Sprouts for .88, so we are eating a lot of them!
  • Thursday: Homemade red sauce, spiralized crockneck squash, Italian marinated chicken breasts
  • Friday:  Date Night (dinner out, but I’m not sure where)
  • Saturday: Salad bar night: mixed greens, kale, and whatever types of veggie bits I pull out, various nuts, and dressings. The kids love cheese on their salads too.
  • Sunday: Ladies night out since it’s my birthday. Probably use one of my million free birthday meal offers.

 

Talk Back: What will you be cooking this week?

Recipe: Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Made with Olive Oil)

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 8.52.18 PM.png
So chewy and fluffy!

I posted on Instagram yesterday about my adventures in baking. I promised the kids cookies, but after consultation with my pantry and fridge, I lacked butter, coconut oil, or Crisco. I quickly searched the google machine and found a bunch of different recipes for chocolate chip cookies with olive oil!

 

Looking over the various recipes, combined with what we had on hand, and I cobbled together a pretty decent batch of cookies. This recipe made 3 1/2 dozen decent sized cookies.

They are fluffy, chewy, and soft. They can burn easily, due to the amount of sugars used. Remember to take them out of the oven before they look done. They will continue to cook on the cookie sheet after they are removed from the oven.

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 9.03.10 PM.pngIngredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 t. Salt
  • 1 t. Baking soda
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup Brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup White sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T. Milk (whatever kind you use, non-dairy is cool)
  • 2 4oz bars of Semi-sweet chocolate, rough chopped

 

 

Directions:Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 8.52.08 PM.png

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and soda. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix oil and sugars together, until mixture is fluffy. I use an electric mixer.
  3. Add eggs one at a time until well combined.
  4. Slowly add flour mixture until well incorporated, add milk as needed to give dough desired texture.
  5. Stir in chopped chocolate pieces.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet (or use Silicone baking pads like I do).  Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes.

The kids were so happy they got cookies, and I was happy to be able to make them!My 2019 motto: Use it up, improvise, make do!

 

Talk Back: What is your motto or mantra for 2019?