Porchlight Community Services

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 11.02.54 PM.pngFor those of you who have read my blog for a while, you know that food insecurity is a cause near and dear to my heart.

In San Diego County, one in seven families experience food insecurity. Food insecurity means you’re not sure where your next healthy, nutritious meal is coming from. It means you probably don’t have extra cans in your cupboard, or that you need to be more than just a little creative when it comes to cooking that a few days before payday.

Food insecurity is an issue that I feel very strongly about. No one should be hungry, and no one should have to eat mass-produced, poorly made, food devoid of nutritional just to fill their belly. Quality, nutritious food should be available to anyone and everyone at an affordable price.

That is one reason I am so excited to share with you today about an awesome organization in Linda Vista called Porchlight Community Services.

Porchlight Community Services is different from a lot of other food organizations in that they are a food rescue organization. They work with produce distributors, grocery stores, and bakery to rescue food that is otherwise destined for the dumpster.

Next time you’re at the grocery store take a look at all the fruit, all the produce, all the baked goods. The likelihood of all of those items will sell before their pull date is slim.

So when items are pulled off the shelf prior to their expiration date, they are frequently thrown in the trash. That trash heads to the landfill. Grocery store, bakeries, food distributors do not compost their unwanted food. Food rescue agencies like Porchlight Community Services pick up the food (that is still good, by the way, pull dates are usually arbitrary, and only affect the appearance of the food, not it’s quality or viability). They then take the food back to their offices where it is gone over to make sure that it is still quality, and edible. And it is been distributed to families who support Porchlight Community Services mission.

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 11.14.09 PM.pngProduce that can not be distributed (it’s leftover at the end of the event), is often donated to neighbors with animals, or local animal organizations. Once again, eliminating food waste and helping others,

Some of the companies that donate to Porchlight Community Services include Ralphs, Boudin Bakery, Wal-Mart, Starry Lane Bakery, and California Produce.

Porchlight Community Services is not your average food bank or pull date co-op. There is no minimum or maximum amount of money your family needs to make to participate. Some people who shop at Porchlight do so because they believe in the mission of keeping food out of landfills (like my family- it hurts my heart to see perfectly good food go to waste). Some people go to Porchlight Community Services because they are in need of wholesome nutritious groceries that fit a specialized diet (like Gluten-free or Dairy-free) but can’t afford to shell out money every week or two for the costly groceries at a mainstream grocery store.  Some people are in a tight spot and need to stretch what little money they have until payday.

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An example of past food items available

Distributions are usually held weekly. You can find out about upcoming events here on their website, or follow them on Facebook.

All funds that are raised go towards paying rent and utilities- to keep the Mission of feeding others going. 

If you are interested in helping Porchlight Community Services, they are always looking for volunteers to help unload food as it comes in on distribution days, organize and stock shelves, refrigerators, and freezers.

They also need help volunteering with event prep- setting up tables and bins.

This might be a good opportunity for girl scout troops or other civic organizations! Contact Porchlight Community Services here to find out about more volunteer opportunities.

 

 

10 Tips to Stay on Budget for Groceries

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I frequently get skeptical looks, the side eye, or people thinking I’m starving my kids when I tell them that our grocery budget is $80/week.

It takes a lot of work, but it is doable. I cook a lot from scratch- it’s healthy, cheap, and I can control what goes into each dish (hidden veggies, fruit, less sugar, etc.). I can make a cheese pizza at home for less than $4, and that is enough pizza for the kids for two meals!

Here are a few of our family tactics to stay on budget:

  1. CASH! Go to the bank/ATM and get your grocery money out of the bank every week. This is a great way to start. I get $80 out of the ATM each Saturday for the upcoming weeks’ groceries.
  2. Inventory your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry. Bonus- You’ll also find stuff that needs to be thrown out or donated. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printables, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.
  3. Menu Plan. Start by using what you’ve got on-hand. Eat food that’s on sale or in season. We eat a lot of strawberries in the summer because they are cheap!
  4. Make a grocery list. Stick to the list Don’t be afraid to substitute brands, or make changes based on what is on sale, or any in-store markdowns you find.
  5. Don’t be afraid to go to more than one store. I’m not saying run all over town, but going to two stores is OK. In our area, there are a 99 Cents Only store and a Grocery Outlet in the same shopping Center. I hit up both each week. Then, on the way home, I stop at Food4Less and buy milk (cheapest in town!), eggs, and bread (if 99 Cents Only doesn’t have the high protein bread we like).
  6. Eat Less Meat. Not only does it save money, but it’s better for the environment.
  7. Take advantage of local resources. There are a few food co-ops in our area. Additionally, there are free produce distributions too. A couple of my friends and I split a co-op lot twice a month. It comes out to less than $20 per person, and we get all kinds of cool stuff. A quick google search can help you find both in your area.  In the summer, we take advantage of Kid’s free lunches too.
  8. Coupon and/or use money-saving apps.  My complete list of apps can be found here. Right now my favorite apps are Fetch Rewards and Ibotta.  I love that I can use Fetch at any store. It helps because I shop a lot of Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only.
  9. Speaking of which… Don’t forget to check out stores like 99 Cents Only. There are all kinds of great bargains. Here is my list of 10 Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!
  10. Be Flexible. Some weeks you will go over budget. It happens. Sometimes you need to stock up on staples, or your family wants to eat something that isn’t on sale. Sometimes you really want to order a pizza and wings. That’s OK! Frugality is a journey, it’s not a punishment or a life of austerity and suffering. You can still live a fun, full life while being frugal.

Talk Back: Share a few of your families tips for staying on budget?

Stretch your Grocery Budget with Free Produce Distributions!

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This list is only central, south bay, and east county locations. North County locations can be found on the Neighborhood Distribution Program website.

It’s a pretty common complaint that kids eat A LOT during the summer. There are lots of causes: Increased activity, change in schedules, and let’s face it- kids just eat a lot. This can increase a families grocery budget at a time when they are already spending extra money on activities for their kiddos.

I have a possible solution! Check out the San Diego and North County Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program! From their website, “The Neighborhood Distribution Program distributes food to thousands of individuals and families once a month at more than 20 different sites throughout San Diego County.

Distributions take place in our nonprofit partners’ parking lots. The majority of the food distributed consists of fresh fruits and vegetables which is part of the Food Bank’s Nutrition Initiative to provide healthy, nutrient-rich food to our clients.

Neighborhood Distribution Program sites welcome anyone in need of food assistance. I.D. and documentation ARE NOT required, and there are no income or asset restrictions for this program.”

You may be wondering, “But what do you get?” Well, one of the distribution points, Faith Chapel in Spring Valley posts photos on their  Meet the Need Ministry Instagram page!

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White onions, red potatoes, watermelons, honeydew melons, oranges and Washington apples were available today. And it’s not just a few of each. Each person who came through got a bag of white onion, a bag of red potatoes, 1 large watermelon, as many honeydew melons as they wanted, a bag of oranges, and a dozen apples.

This produce is often “ugly” or considered an “allowable second” (a production term used in several industries for an item that is functional but may not be perfect looking), but it’s always tasty and nutritious.

If you’ve got hungry faces that need food this summer, I recommend stopping by your local distribution at least once this summer. If you aren’t in the San Diego County area, check with your local food bank for Neighborhood Distribution Program.

Don’t forget that there are tons of free summer lunch locations all over the state of CA (for more info on San Diego locations, check out this post). 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.

And if you need further help, here is a post with food resources in San Diego County. If you are outside San Diego County, Feeding America has a really great Food Bank Locator.

 

Talk Back: What is your kids favorite summer snack?

Family Event: Queen Bee Market – Spring Shopping Expo 4/26-4/27!

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Looking for some fun shopping this weekend? Head up to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and get ready to shop and support local, small businesses!!

Have you ever wished Etsy was a real store, filled with talented artisans and specialty crafts you could shop for in person? North County natives and sisters, Allison Gharst and Kellie Dooley, the owners behind Queen Bee Market, take that idea and turn it into reality. The two-day shopping expo takes place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 and will feature nearly 100 hand-selected artisans, including local and regional crafters. And, entry is only $3!

Queen Bee Market _Sketchy Notions.jpgKellie and Allison, took over operations and ownership of Queen Bee Market in 2015 after participating as vendors for several years. Both mothers themselves, they first got their start selling products on Etsy. Now, they hand-select each of the vendors that showcase at Queen Bee Market,

A few of the standouts for the April event include Bare Naked Botanicals, a line of artisanal vegan skin and body care; Momma Pots, maker of handmade and hand-painted concrete pots; Lu+Elle, a line of handmade bags; Chalk Couture, a chalk-centric line of DIY home décor; Blessed Little Bird, maker of customizable jewelry and trinkets; and more.  A full list of vendors is available at Queen Bee Market,

Queen Bee Market_Shoppers Browse Burma Boutique.jpgBut it’s more than shopping… Aside from all the spring shopping opportunities, Queen Bee Market will also offer interactive make-and-take stations and workshops where you can learn how to create your own hand-stamped jewelry, personalized chalkboard and how to blend essential oils to keep pets healthy and pest-free, among others.

Each Queen Bee Market event selects a local charity to support. This event will support the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank with on-site donation barrels to collect non-perishable food items and a virtual food drive where people can securely donate funds before they arrive at the market. Shoppers who donate five items will receive a Queen Bee Market shopping card worth 10 percent off their purchase at the expo. Not sure what kind of food items the food bank needs? Check out my post here with a list of items that are commonly requested.

Affected by the Government Shut Down?

4cad5a265dc46a2ca38b1727137b1b6e.jpgI know there are so many families in San Diego that are affected by the government shutdown. I wanted to post a small round up to try and help those who may need help with groceries, clothes, or help with paying bills.

Food: Here is a post about San Diego, CA area food banks, food pantries, and produce distributions. You can also call 211, or visit the 211 website. They have tons of great recourses, including information on housing, utility assistance, and transportation.

Utilities: For those of us in San Diego County, SDG&E has several ways you can save money on your power bill. I’ve gone over a few here.  SDG&E also has information on their site specifically for furloughed Federal employees.

We switched to Time-of-Use pricing a few months ago, and combined with being more mindful of when and how we use power:

  • Turning off lights during the day and opening the shades/curtains
  • Turn your thermostat up.
  • Doing laundry and dishes before 4pm or after 9pm
  • Using Smart Plugs and using OhmConnect to help us conserve power actively during times when there is extra demand on the grid. You can learn more about OhmConnect here.

Clothing Resources: Here are a few resources that can help you with clothes. There are clothing swaps all over San Diego County.

Pet Resources: The San Diego Humane Society is offering free pet food (cat or dog) for furloughed Federal employee. Per their Facebook page: “We will offer free pet food to federal employees affected by the government shutdown Monday, Jan. 14 through Friday, Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at all three of our campuses. Two bags of pet food will be provided to each family who can show proof of federal employment. All pet food will be available on a first come, first served basis while supplies last. You can help by sharing this post, donating on our website (https://bit.ly/2AJJtcN) and/or by donating dog or cat food at any of our locations.”

Quaker Foods: $5 Rebate at Wal-Mart!

I love rebates! This rebate is great because a lot of these items are heavily requested at food banks this time of year.

Tis the season to save BIG at Walmart! Now through December 15, get a $5 Walmart eGift card when you buy $15 of participating Quaker® products online or in store. Just email your receipt to submit@quakerseasonalsavings.com and choose from over 400 Quaker® items, including your favorites like Quaker® Oatmeal, Aunt Jemima®, Cap’n Crunch®, and so many more. Head to quakerseasonalsavings.com for a full list of qualifying products.

Simple Ways to Help Others This Holiday Season

With the holidays approaching (Hey, tomorrow is Thanksgiving), you will probably start to see charities and organizations ask for assistance with their holiday campaigns. If you are on a budget, writing a check may not be feasible, but there are other ways to help.

1-Donate to your local food bank food drive: Most food banks see an increase in clients at the end of the year, and need everyday foods. Clean out your cupboard and donate some IN DATE, un-dented cans or boxed items.  

I know most of us have some extra (and unexpired) items in their cupboard they could part with. If you are unsure what kind of items to donate, here are items that the food bank always needs:

  • Canned Meats
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits
  • Canned Soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal & Oatmeal
  • Rice & Pasta
  • Powdered Milk, beverage mixes (like shelf stable juice concentrate, instant coffee, hot cocoa pouches)
  • Infant Formula (The sample sized canisters or sample pouches that you may have received free in the mail are perfect donations!)

2- If your local area doesn’t have a food bank, check to see if there is a  Little Free Pantry in your area.  These are stocked by neighbors in the area, and most of them can always use some extra boxes or cans. Our neighborhood has a Blessing Box located at the nearby church.  Sometimes neighbors are too embarrassed to seek out help. In those cases, Little Free Pantries and Blessing boxes are saving graces.

3-Don’t forget to check out your local Buy Nothing Groups. Within local buy nothing groups, your neighbors are offering up items for free, and you can offer items from your home that you no longer need.

4-Donate! Charities sometimes accept gently used items to sell to raise money for their causes (such as AmVets, and DAV). You can drop off stuff you no longer need/want and help others at the same time!

5-Donate to a Clothing Swap. I’ve written about clothing swaps here before. With the holidays coming up, some local organizations have an increased need for clothing, especially if they offer clothing without requiring a donation from those in need.  If you are in need of clothing, but have nothing to swap, two good free clothing resources in San Diego are The Closet on 54th (Men, women, and children’s clothing) and Naomi’s Closet (only women’s clothing).