Stretching your Food Budget….

ball_jar.jpgTimes are tough for a lot of us right now. Coupons and deals are drying up left and right. Here are some ways that you can stretch your grocery budget without wasting time or energy.

My Top Ten 99 Cents Only Buys

The eternal question at Costco: Is Bigger Better? Learn about Price Per Unit here. 

In addition to price per unit, you might consider starting a price book as well.

If you live in San Diego County, check out this list of Neighborhood Distributions all over the county. You can pick up 15-30 lbs of free produce each week. No proof of need is required. Just show up with your reusable grocery bags!

If you are low-income, have kids under 5, are a senior citizen, or a college student struggling with food insecurity, there are programs out there that can help you! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to admit that you need help!

There are also food share programs in almost every community in the US.  They provide low cost food boxes to families and individuals. A quick google search can help you find one near you!

In San Diego County, there are monthly distributions through the San Diego food bank at various locations. Colloquially called “commodities”, it’s officially called The Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP). Locations throughout the county distributes USDA food each month. If you live outside San Diego County, check with your local county or municipalities food bank network for more info on this service.

Don’t forget there are tons of money saving and rebate apps. My list is here.

Bartering: Most of us know someone with a backyard garden. Trade your skills (housecleaning, organizing, babysitting, car washing, you get the idea) for some home grown produce, or eggs (some of us live in areas where backyard livestock is ok).  This may not be available to everyone.

Menu Planning is another great way to cut down on food waste- It’s a lot easier than you think once you get started.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear your tips for stretching your grocery budget!

Clean Out Your Closets, it’s SWAP TIME!!

Ya’ll know I love me a good Clothing Swap. If you are a San Diego, CA area resident, there is a great swap coming up on the 29th of September.

Skyline Church in La Mesa is hosting it’s twice a year swap, and boy am I excited! I’ve been cleaning out our closets, dressers, and every space that we store stuff.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 12.39.53 PM

I even cleaned out my trunk to make room for all of the new stuff we’re taking home!

In addition to clothing, they also accept housewares and all kinds of other stuff, so I’ve been going through the kids bookshelves to take along any books they may have outgrown or any duplicate books.

We’re dropping stuff off next Thursday afternoon. I’ve always got extra items, so if you’re a local and want to come but you don’t have anything to swap, let me know!

If you can’t make this swap, but want to learn more about future swaps all over San Diego County, Check Out Thread Bumpin’– It’s a Meetup.com group, especially for clothing swaps. It’s free to join. If you are new to clothing swaps, check out my post here all about them and why they are so cool!

Finally: 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).

Talk Back: Have you ever been to a clothing swap? What is your favorite part?

Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies!

img_8846.jpgI know today is Pi Day, but Henry doesn’t really like pie (except Cheesecake), and I’m always looking for ways to get more protein into my buddy. He has a lot of food aversions, so most meat is a no-go (I don’t really count the occasional chicken nugget he inhales), same with beans, lentils, peas, and most other traditional sources of protein.

And who doesn’t love chocolate chips cookies…..

On the Back of the Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes mix I noticed that they say you can swap their mix  1 for 1 with flour, leavening, and salt in any baking recipe. Challenge accepted!

I turned to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, the one on the back of the Tollhouse Chips Bag.

Making a few modifications based on what we had in the house, and we were ready to bake!

Here is the Original Recipe. One thing I really recommend is to cream the butter (basically use the electric mixer to “fluff up” the butter) for 30 seconds to a minute before adding the sugars.

IMG_8851.jpgIngredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups Kodiak Cakes Mix
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar or Splenda (I used baking Splenda)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

 

 

 

 

IMG_8852.jpg
Cookie Dough

IMG_8853.jpg

 

 

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter for 30 seconds to a minute.
  2. Add Sugars and mix until combined.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, and mix completely before adding second egg.
  4. Add vanilla, Kodiak Cakes mix, blend until dough forms.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon 1 Tbs. blobs onto a greased cookie sheet or a silicone cooking pad on a cookie sheet. I love Sil pads.
  7. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Here are the calorie stats for the entire batch of cookies and per serving, which is 2 cookies. I serve Henry 2 of these with an 8 ounce glass of milk. So the total protein for his snack is 12 grams.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 10.25.08 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 10.25.02 AM.png

This recipe makes 5 dozen cookies.

Do you have a secret to getting your kids to eat more protein?

The Annual Toy Purge: Clean up & Help Others!

toys (4).JPG

Each year after Christmas and when the big kiddo is back to school, we go through the house and get rid of the toys that are no longer played with (Duplos), or are broken (So many things), or were taken away and never asked for back (I’m looking at you Nerf Gun). We also weed out the multiples. That way we only have 1 of each kind of train (no one needs 5 Thomas trains!), one of each kind of toy dino/animal in each size, and enough accessories for each Potato Head (but not tons).

IMG_7862We call this the Great Annual Toy Purge.  I enlist the help of my mom (who lives less than a mile away) to come and help me sort through all the toys.  We have toys in bins that are labeled, but sometimes, the toys migrate.

At the same time, we go through the toys. There are three piles:

  • Broken or missing pieces (discard/recycle)
  • In ok/good shape (donate to local thrift store)
  • Great/like new shape (There isn’t a lot in this category- Donate to some places in our local area that needs toys, or give to friends)

Then there is the Big Ol’ Black Trash bag- The trash goes straight in there.

I didn’t get a before picture, but, it was awful. Toys everywhere, junk, empty boxes… You know, kid stuff.

Here is a photo of the after:

IMG_7849IMG_7848 There are still a few more boxes of toys that need to go down to the garage (Stuff that we are saving for the when the Littler One gets bigger), and I vacuumed and we made his bed.

Unwanted toys were moved out of the house yesterday before school pick up. It’s raining right now, so our project is on hold until the rain stops. Next up is Bitty Bird’s room. It’s much smaller and she has less toys, but there are son many small pieces (doll clothes, toy food)- I’ll be stocking up on more 20 quart Sterilite tubs with lids.

Now, there are some toys that live in the living room because they get a lot more play. Mean Animals/Toy Dinos, Guy Men (action figures), and a small tub of Legos. We have them in a 2×2 Kallax Bookshelf from Ikea.

I’m participating in #declutterlikeamother, which is something fellow blogger Allie Casazzara does. A few of my friends are doing it too. While I wouldn’t jump off a cliff if others were doing it, I will definitely get rid of so much clutter and confusion with my friends!

I’ve already cleaned out the hall closet, the kitchen and hall junk drawers, and cleaned out my desk (which was basically just two junk drawers).

We’ve also cleaned out our wardrobes. We donated, recycled, shared hand-me-downs, and prepped bags to take to an upcoming clothing swap.

I encourage everyone to #declutterlikeamother. It’s incredibly liberating not to not feel suffocated by so.much.stuff. It feels so good to let go.

Upcoming Clothing Swaps

IMG_4703.JPGI’ve written about clothing swaps before, and I wanted to alert my local San Diego readers to a couple upcoming clothing swaps!

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 4.04.24 PM.png

The Skyline Clothing Swap is back! January 13th, 2018. Drop off in advance and receive credit for 5 extra items!

I love this swap- they always have TONS of great kids books in addition to clothes and household items.

It does cost $2 to enter, but the entry fee supports Skyline Church’s Youth Camps.

If Skyline isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you are looking for something a little smaller, Finders Keepers is hosting a swap the same day! January 13, 2018


Early drop off for 5 extra clothing items on Friday, January 12 6 pm – 7 pm.

$1 admission to swap. Location is The Shelter Church 8111 Orange Ave, La Mesa. They are looking for volunteers to help sort and put out clothes. You can contact them via their FB page if you want to help out.

Finders Keeps asks that you donate no event T-shirts, and no items with stains or holes. 50 item limit. You can purchase clothes too for $1 each.

If you are looking for a group that hosts clothing swaps more frequently, check it out the Thread Bumpin’ Meet up Group. They host a monthly swap in OB area.

And Finally, the Closet of 54th isn’t a clothing swap per se, but they do help those in need with new to them clothes. They are open once a few times each month. You can find them on Facebook. They are located at the Calvary Lutheran Church, 3060 54th Street, San Diego, CA. Contact The Closet at thecloseton54th@gmail.com.

 

Talk Back:  I’d love to hear about other San Diego area clothing swaps that you know of! Favorite swaps and/or what your best score has been!

Saving Money in the New Year on Clothes!

img_1146
The tote of clothes to grow into!

I’ve written about clothing swaps before, but I wanted to share some additional resources and tips.

Last night I was pulling out the 24 month clothes for Bitty Bird, and making a pile of 18 month clothes that she had outgrown and I thought about how there were probably other moms (and dads) doing the same thing!

I try to keep clothing in the next size up for Bitty, but Lil’ Man hasn’t bee growing very much, just wearing his clothes out, so I only have a few outfits in the next size up for him. Everything lives in a tote in her bedroom. But don’t worry, she can’t get into it. It’s part of her changing table set up.

We rely on clothing swaps and hand-me-downs for the bulk of our kids clothes. There is no reason that you have to spend thousands of dollars on dressing your kids!

Here are some tips to how we save big on kids clothes:

Trade with friends!

img_1147
The Pile of outgrown clothes!

We lucked out that a lot of our friends had girls about a year before Bitty was born. We received a bunch of hand me downs prior to her birth, and we continue to as well. This is great because I turn around and share them with friends who have kids after Bitty has grown out of them!

Handing down clothes or trading with friends is a great way to keep costs down and keep unwanted/outgrown clothes out of landfills!

Some of our favorite outfits have been hand me downs!

Check Craigslist Free Section! 

I have found tons of clothes (not just for the kids) in the free section of Craiglist. People move, or don’t have time to sell or donate clothing they no longer want. Instead they post on Craigslist! I’ve scored Jack and Janie, Gymboree, and even Nordstrom brand kids clothes all for free!

And in a similar vein:

Check out Clothing Swaps! 

Here are a few in Eastern San Diego County:

  • Finders Keepers Dates change. Usually quarterly in La Mesa
  • Skyline Church Clothing Plus Swap Takes place twice a year.
  • Pathways Church Clothing Swap Takes place once a year.
  • Foothills Church Shop and Swap Once or twice a year
  • Miss Charity’s Closet Monthly swap at Sonrise Church 8805 N. Magnolia Ave Santee, CA 92071 (2nd Saturday of each month)

And these two, while not specifically clothing swaps, do have clothing available for those in need

  • The Closet on 54th: Open 3 times a month on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday 11:00am to 2:00pm. Located at Calvary Lutheran Church, 3060 54th Street, San Diego, CA 92105. Men, womens, and childrens clothing.
  • Naomi’s Closet: at Santee United Methodist Church 8964 N. Magnolia St. Santee, CA 92071 Wednesdays 10 AM – 12 PM and every 1st & 3rd Saturday, 9 AM – 1 PM (ladies clothing only, men are not permitted)
img_1148
My Helper, making soup for her babies.

Last night after separating and pulling out all of the outgrown clothes, I made two stacks. One was clothes to pass along to friends, and the second was clothes that were in play condition. A little wear, some staining, but still in ok shape (good for playing outside).

The play clothes I posted on our local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook.

I’m really looking forward to some clothing swaps this year! I have a bunch of clothes in my closet that I want to swap out!

Sensible Swap: PB Cup Shake

It’s really hard to lose weight and eat well, especially when there are restaurants like Sonic Drive-In. They have these yummy, thick rich shakes and blasts (which is soft serve ice cream with cookies or candy mixed in and topped with whipped cream), but good lord, do they have tons of calories.

This recipe is a Swap. We swap out stuff with crazy high calories for lower calories ingredients to make a yummy, less calorically dense treat. For reference, a MINI Reese’s Cup Sonic Blast is 580 calories and is about 8 ounces (oh, yeah, they come in four other, progressively larger sizes!). The HMR recipe is 380 calories, and the Swap version is between 380-420 calories depending on which brand of light ice cream you use. Oh, and the recipe makes about 20 ounces! Hooray for more volume and less calories!

I’ve included two versions: One with HMR ingredients (you can substitute your favorite brand of vanilla protein powder and PB Protein Bar), and one using ingredients from the grocer.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 5.29.21 PM

Peanut Butter Cup Shake
Makes 1 large shake (or I guess you could split it and share, but trust me, you won’t want to!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet Vanilla HMR Shake (or scoop if you use the 120 version)
  • 2 Tablespoons PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter(I used the choc. PB2, it’s all we had)
  • 1 HMR Chocolate Peanut bar, chopped into small, bite-sized pieces and frozen
  • 2 handfuls of ice cubes
  • 10 oz water
  • Optional, but yummy: 3 T. Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender, except for the syrup
  2. Blend on medium until all ingredients are incorporated. Mixture should be thick and frosty.
  3. Swirl the syrup in a cold glass.
  4. Pour shake into cup and serve with both a spoon and a straw.
Freaking Delish! I have one of these about once a week!

Here is the second recipe, for those who just want to eat a little better:

Peanut Butter Cup Shake
Makes 1 large shake

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Fat Free Vanilla ice cream (Your favorite brand)
  • 2 handfuls of ice cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
  • 1 Atkins Endulge Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, chopped into small, bite-sized pieces and frozen (there are two in each serving- if you want your shake extra yummy, you could use both of them)
  • Optional, but yummy: 3 T. Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender, except for the syrup
  2. Blend on medium until all ingredients are incorporated. Mixture should be thick and frosty.
  3. Swirl the syrup in a cold glass.
  4. Pour shake into cup and serve with both a spoon and a straw.

We have both a  Ninja NJ600 Pro Blender and a Magic bullet.  The Magic Bullet is great for making shakes at the office (for hubs) and the Ninja is great for making multiple shakes at once at home.