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?

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.

2 freebies from Kroger Stores!

I love that the Kroger Stores do a free Friday Download coupon most weeks. It’s a chance to try new food for free.

This week both Food4less and Ralphs have a different freebie!

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The Food4Less freebie is a spicy one!FREE Doritos Dinamitas Receive ONE (1) FREE Doritos Dinamitas, any variety (4.25 oz.). Available in most stores. Exp 01/14/2018

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Ralphs Freebie is for those of us trying to eat a little healthier!FREE Del Monte Fruit Refresher or Fruit & Chia Receive ONE (1) FREE Del Monte Fruit Refresher or Fruit & Chia (14 oz.). Available in most stores. Exp 01/14/2018

If you are new to Free Friday Downloads from Ralph’s, here is more info about how it works:

WHAT IS FREE FRIDAY DOWNLOAD? An exclusive benefit to having an account online at ralphs.com is FREE products (yes, we said FREE!). When you download the free product coupon, it will be loaded directly to your Shopper’s Card and applied at checkout in-store.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Visit this page on Fridays

DOWNLOAD the digital coupon for the free product (make sure to download between 12:01 am and 11:59pm PT). View the coupon under ‘My Coupons’ in your account online or in the mobile app.

You have two weeks to redeem this coupon in store! Pick up the product at your local Ralphs store and digital coupon will automatically apply at checkout.

 

11/13/17 Meal Plan Monday!

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We’re scraping the bottom of the produce drawer, so I’ll be hitting up .99 Only to pick up some salads, veggies, and berries.

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos usually have a small toasted bagel with cream cheese for breakfast along with fruit.  Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes with frozen bananas and PB2.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Potato Cheese soup and fruit

Tuesday:

  • D: breakfast for dinner- probably pancakes, eggs, and fruit salad

Weds:

  • D: BBQ chicken (in the crockpot), green salad, biscuits

Thursday:

  • D:  Grilled chicken and grilled veggies 

Friday:

  • D: Date Night! (we go out)

Saturday:

  • D: DIY pizza night!

Sunday:

  • D: Leftover buffet

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first).

Healthy, Frozen Fruit Pops!

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It’s summer and my kids would eat popsicles 24/7 if I let them. Most commercial popsicles (or as they are sometimes called, frozen dessert confections) are full of sugar and artificial ick. A few months ago my dad bought me a package of Zipzicles on Amazon. Zipzicles are long, skinny zip top freezer bags that can be filled with whatever you’d like and frozen. Think DIY Otter Pops.

What I really like is that you can be creative, use what you have on hand, and create healthy and fun treats with your kids.

Here are two recipes that the kids and I came up with. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this pictures recently.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.46.47 AMMixed Berry Pops

Makes about 12 pops

  • 2 cups mixed berries (use whatever you have, I used 1.5 cups of strawberries and 1/2 cup blackberries)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 t. honey

Place all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Use a small funnel to fill the zipzicle pouches. Place all Zipzicle pouches into a cup or larger zip top bag and place in freezer. Ready to serve in approx 4-6 hours, or as soon as frozen solid.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.46.35 AMTropical Pops

Makes about 20

2c frozen bananas
2c frozen Strawberries
1 pkg frozen mangoes
2c Orange Juice
Blend together, pour into Zipzicle pouches ( I use a funnel). Store in freezer until it’s time to consume.

They are so good, and no extra sugar is needed, because the bananas are so sweet.

Next, I think we’ll be making Bachelor Mousse treats. I think it will freeze well, and everyone loves fudgsicles!

For your convenance, Zipzicles can be purchased here (affiliate link), but you can also find them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

What would you put into your Zipzicles?

How to save money without coupons: Part Two- Produce!

Yesterday I talked about how to save money without coupons when buying meat. Today I’m going to talk about fruits and vegetables!

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There are seldom coupons for fresh fruit or vegetables.

Usually when you find coupons for either, they are lower in value or you must purchase another item (like cereal, croutons, something not super healthy or inexpensive).

Here are some ways you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your grocery budget and diet without breaking the bank!

My number one money saving tip when it comes to produce is: Eat fruit and vegetables when they are in season. Food in season is cheaper because there is a surplus of it. 

Living in So. Cal, I’m kind of spoiled in that we can grow and eat most fruits and veggies year round. But if you live some place where it snows or has cold winters, eat produce when it’s readily available.

If you aren’t sure when certain fruits and veggies are in season, check out the Produce for Better Health Foundation website here. They have lists based on season.

Tip Number Two: If you gotta eat fruit out of season (sometimes in December, you just gotta have strawberries), buy frozen fruit. Frozen berries are so juicy and flavorful. Frozen fruit is the fruit that is too ripe to sell in stores fresh, so it’s cut up and flash frozen. It contains all of the nutrients that are found in fresh fruit.

Tip Number  Three: If you grow your own fruits, veggies or herbs: Freeze, dry, or can/preserve whatever you won’t eat right away. That way you’ll have some when the weather turns.

I love to make jam and pickles. It’s really easy and you don’t need any special equipment. We don’t grow enough tomatoes to can our own, so I pick up fruits and veggies when they are really cheap and in peak season and make jam or pickles then. And you can definitely can more than just Cucumbers!

If it is something that interests you, here are a few books that I like:

If you want to get the canning gadgets that make canning a little easier, here is the kit that I bought years ago: Back to Basics 286 5-Piece Home Canning Kit I love the funnel!

Tip Number  Four: When fruit or veggies are on sale, stock up. That may sound weird, but most produce can be frozen. With the exception of raw potatoes and lettuce I think you can clean, chop, and store pretty much any fruit or veggie in the freezer. Speaking of frozen….

Fresh produce is always the best, but a close second is frozen. Occasionally frozen veggies are on sale. If they are types/varieties you like, stock up!

Canned fruit/veggies are my last resort. Why? Because, for the most part, they are canned in syrup or juice (fruit) or salt-laden water (veggies) and they are usually cooked and some of the nutrients leech out into the liquid they are cooked/canned in, and most of the time that liquid is discarded.

HOWEVER- I love salt-free canned tomatoes in recipes for all kinds of stuff, and Lil’ Man loves him some salt-free canned green beans.  Sometimes you can find low/no salt added canned vegetables.

I have found that when I calculate price per unit (more info here), blueberries and some other fruit is cheaper at Costco! So don’t overlook your large club stores.

Tip Number Five: Check outyour local 99 Cent Store (like 99 Cents Only), produce stands, and the markdown section of your supermarket. All three usually have inexpensive produce that is good quality. It may not be the prettiest produce, but that’s ok!

How do you save money on your produce?

Family Recipe: Apple Crisp

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When I was a kid, my mom made apple crisp probably once a week, it’s a huge comfort food for me (and probably my brother too). It’s yummy, cheap to make, and very filling. And as far as desserts go, it’s not really too unhealthy.

This recipe makes a 9×13 inch pan. I use a pan like this one. It’s got a lid, so you can take it to potlucks or store any leftovers in the fridge. Halve the recipe to make smaller sized batch. Honestly, after having it, you won’t want to make a small batch.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 green apples (about 3-4 cups), peeled, cored and chopped (green apples work best- Granny Smith’s are nice).
  • 1/2 stick of butter softened (don’t use oleo/spread- it makes the crumble topping watery)
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar (light or dark, whatever you got!)
  • 1T. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (whichever you prefer)
  • 1 c. quick cook oats (raw!) (if you have a gluten intolerance, you can use gluten free oats)
  • 1/4 c All purpose flour ( if you have a gluten intolerance, you can use nut meal- I like almond meal. Sometimes when I make this GF, I omit the oats and increase the amount of nut meal to 3/4 c)

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a greased baking dish, pour the apples in a even layer.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with a pastry blender (Or a fork, if you don’t have a pastry blender), until ingredients are all combined and crumbly.
  3. Pour crumbles over apples in an even layer.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees until apples are all soft and mushy, usually 30 -45 minutes. THe topping gets toasty and crispy as it bakes!
  5. Serve hot with whipped cream or ice cream. Also great cold, lukewarm, or any temp in between.

It’s so freaking good!

You can use fresh peaches, apricots, or berries instead of apples. They do need to be fresh and ripe (no frozen or canned fruit).