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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Join The Farm Large Share Meal Plan 8/21/14

Hello!  I'm back in the swing of planning for our CSA box again.  Sorry if you missed me 2 weeks ago. I am still getting the Large Share box bi-weekly.  Please note this list is subject to change based on availability from the farm.  Enjoy!

Large Shares

Imperator Carrot
Romaine Lettuce
Basil
Eggplant
San Marzano Tomato
Jellybean Tomato
Watermelon
Green Onion
Jalapeno
Tomatillo
Canary Melon
Cucumber
Brandywine Tomatoes
Green Beans
Bell Pepper
Zucchini
Ruby Lettuce

*Melons, Carrots, Bell Peppers and Cucumbers as stand alone snacks.  I love dipping bell peppers and cucumbers in hummus. 

*Salad:  ruby lettuce, carrots, bell pepper, tomato, green onion, and whatever nuts, dried cranberries & odds & ends you have in your pantry right now.

*Another Salad made with Romaine, green onion, and a dressing of lemon, olive oil, dill & a little feta.

*Reserve some lettuce to add to smoothies.

Crock Pot Tomato Basil Soup

Fresh Green Beans

Eggplant Tzatziki

Hominy, Tomatillo, & Squash Stew - I'll be using the Zucchini in this.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Neat Doctor's Back-toSchool Freezer Recipe Picks!

Wow.  Did back-to-school totally sneak up on anyone else?  I thought I was pretty prepared, and I am in some ways (uniforms, supplies, teacher's gifts & prep meetings with other moms, check!) but all of a sudden school is starting in less than 2 weeks and I still have so much I want to get done!  Luckily I have one kid starting preschool after labor day so I'm going to give myself some leeway and try to get things done by then.  One of my goals is to fill my freezer up with a variety of healthy prepped foods.  Prepping now will save time and make things so much easier throughout the year.  I will aim to have another prep session after New Years and throughout the year as needed.  Here are some links to my top recipe picks.  I'll be in the kitchen a lot these next few weeks!

Breakfast

Green Smoothies

Crunchy Raw Protein Balls - These could be in the snack category too, but these are a great option to power pack your kids with protein in the morning, and perfect if you need to grab them on the go!

French Toast Sticks - Note:  I am keeping these whole so when I stick take them out of the freezer they are easier to reheat in the toaster.  These are also a good breakfast on the go food.

3 Freezable Breakfast Bites

Breakfast Casserole - I know I will need to make at least 2 hot dishes for my MOPS group this fall, so whipping up this dish and sticking it in the freezer will save me a lot of time!  I'll be using my favorite vegan sausage, Field Roast. 

Crock Pot Freezer Jam - This just sounds so delicious so I'm going to try it!  It would pair wonderfully with some scones or even just on whole grain toast. 

Lunch

Check out how this mom preps on Sunday for the weeks lunches:
School Lunch Project:  Organize Your Fridge to Save Time and Money and Feed Your Kids Better. 

I've got one kid I need to pack lunch for and one that will be with me for lunch.  I am going to try and pre-make my lunch and the preschoolers lunch ahead of time too.  If you have a busy weekend & don't have time to pack ahead, another way to tackle the prep is to make or package a few things per day.

Here are some more great pack ahead tips over at Happy Money Saver.

Homemade Yogurt Squeezes:  I like the idea of yogurt squeezes you can freeze, but I wanted a healthier non-dairy version.  I found these BPA free silicone ice pop molds on Amazon which work wonderfully to customize your own yogurt squeezes.   I simply took some plain (or vanilla) coconut milk yogurt and ran it in the Vitamix with some frozen mangoes (use the frozen fruit of your choice).  I then filled the molds up, leaving some room for expansion, and voila!  A healthier and more environmentally conscious yogurt squeeze!  Kids loved them too!



Lunchbox Smoothies - I love this idea!!

Snacks

Apple Fruit Leather

Crunchy Roasted Chickpea Snack

No-Bake Granola Bars 

Mango Chia Popsicles - Who says popsicles have to be summer only treats?!  I'm going to try these for after school snacks.  Need a popsicle mold?  Here's a great one you can order along with the yogurt molds.





Dinner

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Vegan Crock Pot Freezer Meals

Dessert

Cinnamon Ice Box Cookies - Great to have on hand for those last minute parties or evening get togethers (Mom's Night Out anyone?!)

A little bit of prep work goes a long way!  Enjoy!




Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is How I Coupon: 9 Tips for Simplified Couponing


So you want to do some couponing.  You hear it can save a lot of money and you see those extreme couponers getting some amazing deals on grocery bills.  How hard can it be?  You hear rumors of it only being good for junk food and wonder if it's even worth the effort.  I'm pleased to let you in on how I coupon.  I use a more simplified approach, and try to steer clear of junk food.

1)  Bloom Where You Are Planted:  What I mean by this is only focus on the stores that are closest in proximity to your home (or perhaps workplace if you coupon on lunch hour).  This reduces gas mileage spent, and limits the number of store ads you are focusing on for your "couponing homework" (I'll get to that later).  If you have many stores near you, pick 1 supermarket and 1 drugstore.  I want to note here that we do a lot of shopping at Trader Joe's, where I do not use coupons.  There are not many there to use, but you can look out for specials there. We also occasionally get things at Whole Foods, where I find occasional coupons in their ad and from manufacturers.  When I say pick 1 supermarket, I mean pick one in addition to these.  Stores like Vons, Albertson's, Ralph's and the like typically have more deals to use with coupons.  Then pick one drugstore - for locals to Conejo Valley, good deals can be found at CVS, Rite Aid & Walgreens.  Big stores like Target can also have some great deals to pair with coupons.  I happen to not live in super close proximity to any Targets, so if I know I need something there, then I will look at the coupon deals for that week and plan a coupon run.  If I am not planning on heading that way I skip it for the week.

2)  Subscribe to the Sunday Paper:  I have found the best deal with the Los Angeles Times.  Be sure to look at www.retailmenot.com for online coupon codes you can enter.  (Never buy anything online without checking this site for a coupon code first!)  Delivery runs around 75 cents per week.  Use one coupon for 75 cents or higher and it just paid for itself!

3)  Routine:  Get into the routine of clipping your coupons at the same time every week.  For me this is usually Sunday morning or Sunday night.  I clip everything I think I will use and file it away in envelopes categorized by type of coupon.

Here are my categories:
Beverages
Cleaning Supplies
Dog
Food (This can be a huge category!  You may need to split this up into types of food.  I try to utilize mostly fresh produce from our CSA box and only stick to some staples of packaged food, but it's limited, so this is not as huge of a category for me.)
Medications
Misc. Coupons (Anything that does not fit into these categories, like batteries.)
Oral Care
Paper Goods
Personal Care
Vitamins/Supplements
Target Coupons
To Be Filed
Expiring Soon!

I also only keep the ads for the stores I am planning on going to for that week.   I may keep coupons for other stores like Macy's, Joanne's, Bed, Bath & Beyond (which do not expire!) etc. that come in the paper, just in case I need them.  Be sure to keep them in your car (I use a manilla envelope).  Many a time I did not have them with me when circumstances ended us up at a store and I found myself saying, but I have a coupon . . . at home! So frustrating. 

It's also important to have purging as a part of your routine.  Every week do a quick scan of your coupon stash to see if any have expired.  If you miss a week of purging, no big deal, just pick it up the next week. Just don't let it go for too long.  I just recently recovered form a 6 month hiatus from couponing.  My OCD side had to go through every insert looking to make sure all were expired before I tossed them.  I did find a couple non-expired coupons but the majority were past expiration.  That was quite a project that took me weeks.  So do not lapse for too long!

4)  Only keep the coupons that you will really use:  Be realistic with yourself.  Sure you have a wonderful coupon for toothpaste.  But does anyone in your family like that brand??  If you stick to one brand or flavor of an item and honestly do not use any others, find someone who will use it, donate the coupons to the military so families can use them on bases (they can use expired coupons!) click HERE for more info., or simply recycle.  You can also keep a folder of "Coupons I may use" and only access them if you need them, thus simplifying the coupons in your categorized envelopes. 

5)  Raise your "Coupon Awareness":  Once you start couponing, you will probably start noticing coupons everywhere.  I find them at stores in those machines that spit them out at the register (Catalinas), in those machines sprinkled throughout the aisles, in magazines, sometimes on the product or box itself, and even on the ground & in a grocery cart! 

6)  Figure out your Prime Shopping Methods & Times:  You have to do what works for you.  Doing coupon shopping with my kids stresses me out.  I can't concentrate, they usually end up wanting stuff that's not on my list and I may not have the energy to put my foot down and deny them.  It just is not a great way to shop for me.  So, I plan my trips in the evening when my husband is home.  Occasionally I do have to do a run to a store with the kids, but I try to make it a trip where I only meed a few things. 

7)  Use a website that does the hard work for you!:  This is what I consider "homework time!"  The hard work I'm talking about is matching up the store sale prices with coupons that are currently out there.  Keep in mind you may have a coupon you got from a package that may not be listed on their list, so browsing the ads to make your own match ups is a good idea too.  These websites will primarily focus on coupons found in newspaper inserts.  There are a ton of websites that do this.  Just google coupon website for whatever stores you like.  One of my favorite sites is Pocket Your Dollars.  This website covers Target, Walgreens, and CVS for my Conejo Valley readers. The Krazy Koupon Lady is another good site.  There are a ton of others out there as well.  Many sites have lists where you can just check off the items you are interested in getting then print it out. 

8)  Don't forget your store savings cards & coupons!:  One of the basic principles of couponing is that you can use a store sale, possibly a store coupon, and a manufacturers coupon all on the same item.  Be sure to still check the store couponing policy, but this is pretty much true across the board. After you pick your favorite grocery store and drug store, make it your homework to become an expert on their sales and incentive programs. 

9)  Have a place to store your coupons:  I use a 31 Bags Large Utility Tote.  Yes it's big!  It's the perfect size to hold my folder of coupons, as well as weekly ads, newspapers I need to go through etc.  I've been very glad a few times when I just grab the tote to take with me to work on them.  I use the Case It folder, which is available on Amazon HERE. I love all of the spaces in it to store things like scissors, pens, calculator, and even a separate filer section where I like to file my store ads. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Join me Over at Blissful & Domestic!

Good Morning!  In July I had a chance to share my tips on "5 Ways to Save Your Way to Disneyland" over at Blissful and Domestic.  This morning, I am being featured in the "Day in Life of" series.  Come check out "Day in The Life of Karen" , and while you are there check out Danielle's treasure of posts on saving money, managing a household, recipes, and more!  Enjoy!  This definitely was not my craziest of days, but it was a great experience to open up.