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?

Chipotle Reading Rewards: Rewarding the Little Readers in Your Life!

Disclosure: I received a free meal for four as compensation for writing this post, but honestly, reading/literacy is super important to me and the fam….

Chipotle is passionate about more than just perfectly rolled burritos, it is also committed to cultivating nourished minds and communities, and one of the best ways to do that is through Chipotle Reading Rewards – the annual program that rewards book smarts with delicious food crafted from real, whole ingredients.

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Now through Feb. 28, Chipotle is accepting educators’ and librarians’ applications for its Reading Rewards program, which can be added to an existing reading program, or Chipotle can provide schools with turnkey resources to kickstart their own.

The program is designed to help students develop a love of reading by rewarding them with free Chipotle when they reach their reading goals.

One of the reasons I love Chipotle as a family dining choice is there is someone for everyone, even the big kid, who is super picky (he has texture/sensory issues as part of his ASD). Chipotle is committed to making real food from wholesome ingredients without any added colors, flavors or additives. Chipotle has always prepared and used real ingredients that everyone can both recognize and pronounce.

The big kid likes that his food is made in front of him and he is in control of what gets added (no meat- he is a recently self declared vegetarian). I like that there are a lot of good options- freshly chopped veggies, salsas and guac made in the restaurant.

Chipotle’s craveable food is freshly prepared by hand each day using classical cooking techniques in its 2,500 restaurants.

Chipotle is committed to making its food more accessible to everyone. Ordering through the Chipotle app or website is easier than ever before, and now you can get your food faster with delivery from DoorDash.

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To learn more about the Chipotle Reading Rewards Program, click here.

 

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?

 

 

Why I Love… Denny’s

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I’m serious. Stop laughing! I love Denny’s. Here is why: When you have a kid on the spectrum, a lot of stuff is about textures, sounds… the “feels”, if you will. And almost every Denny’s looks the same. The menu is the same, the food tastes the same.  So, no matter where we go, he can have something to eat he likes in a place that is familiar.

And honestly, as far as diner food goes, it’s pretty good. They have heathy choices, they have junk food, and I can get a plate of scrambled eggs and chocolate shake at 2am if I need it.

Other reasons that Denny’s is the bee’s knees:

  • They have coupons. Sign up for their rewards club here, and they’ll email you coupons frequently. They also publish coupons in the Sunday paper, and sometimes in the junk mail too- just keep your eyes peeled.
  • When you are a rewards member, you’ll get a free build your own Grand Slam on your Birthday. SWEEET! That is Henry’s favorite birthday freebie- He knows that I’ll share it with him.
  • They participate in Dosh. We get 5% back when we eat there, can I can combine that with the coupons mentioned above.
  • The four of us can have a meal there for less than $25.00 (before coupon and Dosh cash back). Frequently there are leftovers too. Can’t beat that.
  • The do have Kid’s Eat Free twice a week, but my kiddos are pretty big eaters, and I find it easier (and cheaper) to order them something from the “grown up menu”. Right now, they are obsessed with sharing the Everyday Value Slam. Henry eats the pancakes (with butter), and Bitty eats the eggs and sausage. breakfast for 2 kids for just $4…. uh, ok. And I don’t have to wash the dishes!
  • We frequent the same 3 or 4 locations and the waitresses know the kids. They are always so sweet.

This week, I am professing my love for Denny’s. What do you love this week?

Check out the Holiday Fun at Legoland!

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Silly Faces at the end of the day!

If you haven’t been to Legoland to check out the holiday festivities, there is still time!  The kids and I went yesterday (Daddy is sick, he stayed home and rested), and we had a blast!

img_4069.jpgLegoland California is open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so if you are looking for something fun and unique, head on over!

And if you are looking for a way to ring in the New Year, the Kids’ New Year’s Eve party. This celebration begins with special musical performances on Fun Town Stage and Heartlake City. Then, the party moves to San Francisco in Miniland U.S.A. where, like the famous Times Square party, Kids’ New Year’s Eve features a countdown followed by a huge LEGO brick dropping 22 feet into 2018 and spectacular fireworks at 6 p.m. to end the night.

The entire park is decked out for the holidays. We loved all the touches to Miniland, including the tree in front of Capital Building, along with the carolers. IMG_4068

And here is an Insider Tip: The Pizza and Pasta Buffet offers Kids Eat Free after 4:30pm (1 free kid per paid adult, and kids under 3 eat free) most days. Henry loves Pizza, and after a busy day of running, playing, and building, he and Margaret were both ready to chow down on some pizza and mac n’ cheese.

Also- Don’t forget to try Granny’s Apple Fries! They are to die for!

Summer Fun with Kids at Oggi’s Liberty Station!

OggisGot littles? Trying a fun way to keep them entertained this summer without breaking the banks? Check out these awesome deals from Oggi’s in Liberty Station.

1: Kids eat free all day Wednesday with the purchase of any adult entree.

2: Kids can make their own personal pizza starting at 11:00am. That’s what we did today, and Lil’ Man had a blast. I wish I had gotten photos of the pizza once it was baked, however, he inhaled it.

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The pizza dough is rolled out in the kitchen and brought out with sauce and cheese for the kids to add as much as they want.  Then there is a table of toppings for the kids to choose from (By the time I got over there to take photos, most of the little bowls were empty because all of the kids were having a blast topping their pizzas!). Lil’ Man is a strictly cheese only pizza guy, so we just asked for a little extra cheese.

I sampled some really tasty grown up noms today too. Here were my top three favorites:Marathon-flatbread-2

Marathon Flatbread
Brushed with garlic olive oil, topped with Mozzarella, zucchini, tomato, red onion, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and drizzled with sweet balsamic glaze.

Mediterranean-SaladMediterranean Delight Salad