Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 17, 2014

This Week’s Meal Plan & Grocery Haul

It was about 80 degrees here yesterday.  Weather like that demands grilled hamburgers.

SUNDAY – Grilled burgers, using Costco’s organic, grass-fed ground beef from my freezer.  I made a simple potato salad, too, because my grocery store was running a huge sale on red potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day – 39 cents a pound!  I loosely followed this recipe for the potato salad, but I used scallion instead of yellow onion, added ground mustard and a tablespoon or so of shredded carrots, and doubled the celery.  I also omitted the bacon because I didn’t have any on hand.

MONDAY – Chicken or vegetarian fajitas.  No recipe here.  I’ll sauté organic chicken, black beans, onion, and bell peppers, and then serve it in a tortilla or on a bed of warm kale.

TUESDAY – Pork chops, served with fresh green beans.  Vons had pork chops on sale, so I grabbed a four-pack and started Googling recipes – pork chops aren’t in my normal repertoire because they always seems to dry out.  Many of the recipes I saw use canned, condensed Cream of Mushroom soup – which I’ll use for a family or holiday recipe, but I try to avoid for everyday meals.  I found a few recipes for possible substitutes on Chowhound.  Might give one of them a shot.

WEDNESDAY – Vegetarian frittata.  This is my go-to dinner when eggs are on sale, when I have eggs to use before they expire, or when I have a lot of fresh vegetables on hand.  I’ll stuff this full of sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, scallion, tomato, and broccoli.  Cheese too, because cheese is delicious.  This will go with a simple green salad.

THURSDAY – Fish tacos.  We didn’t end up having them last week (I can’t remember what the hell we did instead; thanks, good-for-nothing brain), so they’re fair game again this week.

FRIDAY – Out!

I was in a hurry to put my groceries away and get out of the house, so I don’t have a photo of this week’s haul … but I paid $58.95 (about $10 more than last week). I saved 42 percent.

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Here’s what I got:

  • 4 bananas
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 pound of fresh green beans
  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce
  • 1 pound of red potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 lime
  • 4 apples
  • 1 pound of strawberries
  • Mushrooms
  • Scallions
  • Celery
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bag of kale
  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 pound of baby carrots
  • 3 boxes of frozen Green Giant veggies
  • 1 box of whole wheat breakfast waffles
  • 1 large container of Mountain High plain yogurt
  • Marcela Valladolid soft taco tortillas
  • 1 box of Lipton Soup Mix (for the pot roast in my freezer)
  • 1 jar of Natural Skippy peanut butter
  • 1 bag of Gevalia ground coffee
  • 1 loaf of whole wheat bread
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 can of pinto beans
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of Chicken of the Sea albacore tuna
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • Land o’ Lakes butter
  • 4 pork chops
  • Seltzer water

That’s a good haul for me.  Plus, I got ANOTHER $10 off coupon for next week.

Here’s to a fantastic week ahead!

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 16, 2014

This Week’s CVS Trip, & Vons Gas

I did decent work at CVS again this week.  I had $5 in Extrabucks to redeem after last week’s trip.  Here’s what I used them on today:

20140316_143930

  • The 8-ounce bag of Wonderful Pistachios was on sale for $3.99.  I applied a 50 cent coupon.  The “regular” grocery store sells Wonderful Pistachios for about $5.99 a bag, so I’m happy with my price on these.
  • The Crest Pro Health mouthwash was on sale for $2.99.  I applied a 75 cent coupon, and earned $2 in Extrabucks on the purchase. 
  • The Crest 3D White toothpaste was on sale for $2.99.  I applied a 75 cent coupon, and earned $2 in Extrabucks on the purchase. 

In total, these three items cost me $3.45 after tax. 

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Plus, I earned $4 in Extrabucks to use next week.

 20140316_143958

In an effort to save in a new area of my budget, I recently started paying attention to the gas discounts available to Vons shoppers.  Like a lot of other grocery stores, Vons runs a “gas rewards” program, where use of your club card translates to discounts at certain gas stations.  Apparently, you can redeem your gas rewards for 20 cents off every gallon at Chevron or Texaco – but if you buy gas at Vons’ own gas stations, you can redeem up to $1 a gallon.

Last week, I needed to fill up, and I found myself only a few blocks away from an actual Vons gas station.  I took advantage of the chance to save a little more, but somehow, I messed it up.  For some reason, I was only able to redeem my rewards for 20 cents off each gallon, even though I was at the actual Vons gas station.  It still brought my fill-up down to $41.78, which is good for a (hybrid) SUV in Southern California.  I used to pay up to $65 a week to fill up my Jeep three years ago …

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 13, 2014

Starting Up in San Diego: What Forbes Forgot

This little news piece has been getting a lot of attention in San Diego.

The headlines, tweets and re-tweets all say something like, “San Diego tops best places for entrepreneurs and start-ups.”  [If you read the article, however, the list was actually compiled by Radius, a tech company.]

Radius/Forbes compared the candidate cities based on five factors:  the percentage of small businesses with Facebook pages and websites; the percentage that are in high-growth industries; the percentage with online reviews; the percentage that accept credit cards; and the percentage of all business that’s comprised of small businesses.

These are all smart, interesting barometers for the question posed.

But, I’d add a few things that make San Diego the best choice, all of which boil down to this:  It’s amazing to live here, and that means entrepreneurs who found companies in San Diego will have an easier time attracting top talent.  For example:

1.  The pace of life is much slower, kindler, and gentler in San Diego.  But don’t misinterpret that as laziness or incompetence.  A lot of over-achieving types have the choice to live elsewhere and make a lot more money, but we choose to stay in San Diego because the people are nicer, the cost of living is low-ish [SF, LA – I’m looking at you], and the weather is perfect [NY, how’s winter going?].

2.  People here care about their physical health.  It’s one of the fittest cities.  Which means that if your co-workers slip out for a quick run/bike ride/yoga class to clear their mind, they’ll support you doing the same.  And then we’ll all be full of endorphins and that means happier, healthier employees.

3.  We have a great craft beer scene that hasn’t exploded with tourists yet.  Ballast Point; Coronado Brewing; Green Flash; Modern Times; Pizza Port are a few, and there are many, many more.  Which means opportunities for team bonding over local, craft beer tasting and brewery tours.

4.  Our foodie scene isn’t bad either.  We have seafood, sushi, and taco shops DOWN.  Never had carne asada fries?  Well, please prepare to start living your life with more joy [and exercising more], because they are awesome, and they are everywhere here.  And they are a great ending to your craft brewery tour.

5.  There’s a neighborhood for everyone.  Years ago, San Diego decided its urban planning strategy was to become a “City of Villages.”  That means the City tries to grow intelligently – increasing its density and walkability in its existing neighborhoods, rather than just sprawling endlessly and becoming a commuter’s nightmare.  As a result, there are a variety of interesting neighborhoods with their own little personalities – there’s the beach, where surfers and hippies tend to live; there’s Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, and the like, where hipsters congregate; there’s North County (Carlsbad, Encinitas, Poway), where couples migrate once they start a family … you get my point.

Anyway, Forbes’ story was a nice little feather in San Diego’s cap today.  By the way, here’s the full list of Forbes’ [Radius’] top-ranked winners:

1.  San Diego

2.  Denver

3.  Austin

4.  Seattle

5.  Portland

6.  San Francisco [Really?! With rent that high? No.]

7.  Dallas

8.  Boston

9.  New York

10.  Chicago

11.  Las Vegas

12.  San Jose

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 12, 2014

Interesting Freebies in San Diego This Weekend

It’s almost Friday!  Below are a few free (or nearly free) things to do around San Diego this weekend.  Your mileage may vary.

Friday

    • Kettner Nights in Little Italy NorthThis is another of those “First Fridays” events, which have exploded in walkable neighborhoods over the last few years.  The idea is this:  One Friday a month, you and other San Diegans wander through a quaint, urban neighborhood that’s usually blocked off from car traffic, and as you wander, you absorb the local art, design, culture, vendors, and flavors.  It’s a great way to get out of your own neighborhood and soak up the flair of someone else’s.

Saturday

    • Visit a Farmer’s Market.  Have you ever walked past a stand of nectarines and been overwhelmed by their scent from more than 3 feet away?  It’s indescribable, and you can’t experience it at Ralph’s or Vons.  Luckily, we have no shortage of great farmer’s markets every Saturday – they take place in Pacific Beach, Vista, City Heights, Little Italy, Ramona, Del Mar, and beyond.
    • The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  Aren’t we all a little Irish around March 17th?  There’s no admission fee for this Gaslamp event, but I’d park at Fashion Valley or Old Town and take the trolley to avoid parking price-gouging.
    • Culinary Historians of San Diego.  I don’t know a ton about this group, but they are hosting this talk at the new downtown library, which will be about food, drink and culture viewed through the eyes of Southern cuisine.  The speaker is from New Orleans, where cuisine is king.  And I’ve been dying to visit the brand spankin’ new downtown branch (have you been?).

Sunday

    • Whale Watching with Birch Aquarium.  This one isn’t free (though there’s a $5 off coupon at the link), but I have a thing for whales, aquariums (aquaria?), and ocean views.  Plus, whale watching ends in early April, so we’re running out of time to see the big guys. 
    • Get outside.  No weekend in San Diego is complete without some time spent outdoors, and all my friends and family on the East Coast would shake their fists at us if we didn’t take advantage of this warm spring weather.  Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park, Mission Trails, Cowles Mountain … they’re all FREE and AMAZING.  I recently climbed Cowles on a clear morning.  You can see all the way to the Pacific from the top!

Cowles Mountain

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 12, 2014

My iPhone 4 is Being Retired

I used an iPhone 4 until about 10 hours ago.  That mother effer was old.  Wikipedia just told me it was first made available in 2010.  2010!  That’s four years ago!  I’ve been willingly carrying around the technological equivalent of a VCR or a Discman or … well, an iPhone 4.

The thing has been dying since AT LEAST three years ago.  I’ve had to replace it (at no cost to me) three times in four years.  It drags ass between screens; it won’t take great photos (see this week’s previous blog entries for proof); its screen likes to freeze up right when I’m trying to answer professional calls; its only real, physical buttons poop out whenever they feel like it.  It’s a sad little phone.

None of this is Apple’s fault.  I was committed to putting my phone through a long, slow, painful death.  I got it for free two years ago, which tells you it was outdated even then.  But Apple’s constant innovation and updates and new iPhones actually worked to demotivate me from trading up – I was already so far behind right out of the gates.  If I upgraded just because there was an upgrade available, I’d only be outdated again in a few months.  Yes; this cell phone break-up would be as tortured as my previous one, which involved a years-long dedication to the Blackberry Curve.  Don’t judge me.

Luckily, my contract is up for renewal.  With that in mind, I made a trip to the hellhole that is known as an AT&T Wireless store at 4 p.m. on a beautiful Sunday when I should have been glued to my couch watching TV.

When I got to the store, I futzed around with the phones, as one does (i.e., taking selfies so future visitors could have a good laugh when they did exactly what I did and immediately browsed the “Photos” folder).

I didn’t buy a phone, though.  Inside my head, it went like this:  “Why is that man yelling at that employee?  Oh man, they broke his phone?!  That’s bullshit.  It’s hot and crowded in here.  I just want a new phone; mine is so old and slow.  There’s a 30-minute wait to even talk to someone?  Oh, okay.  Why won’t that kid get off that phone so I can play with it?  Doesn’t she know how to share?  Wow; these phones are so fast and the screens are so big?!?!  MY OVER-30-YEAR-OLD EYEBALLS ARE IN LOVE WITH THAT BIG-SCREENED SAMSUNG. I want the big one!!! Technology is so amazing; who would have thought phones would get bigger?  Maybe I need a tablet.  OOOH, PINK PHONES!”

Eventually, I decided to go home, comparison shop online and ensure it all made sense for my budget.  I ended up choosing a Samsung Galaxy S4 because I’m enamored with the bigger smartphones.  What can I say — they remind me of a Discman I used to carry around.

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 11, 2014

I Turned a Small Profit at CVS This Week

I robbed my local CVS again this week. 

Just joshing. 

What actually happened is (A) I bought stuff, (B) I paid a very low price for that stuff, and (C), I earned more in ExtraBucks than what I paid in cash. 

photo (1)

Here’s how it broke down:

CVS 1

1.  I purchased VitaMelts B12 vitamins for $5.99.  I applied a “$2 off any vitamin purchase” coupon that CVS’s “coupon machine” printed for me.  I earned $4 in ExtraBucks on those VitaMelts.  [Side note:  These are oddly delicious little melty vitamin tabs that taste like berry candy.  Would purchase again.]

2.  I purchased Colgate for $2.99.  I applied a $1 off coupon from the newspaper, bringing the cost down to $1.99.  I earned $1 in ExtraBucks.

3.  I purchased Lady Speed Stick for $1.99.  I applied a $1 off coupon from the newspaper, bringing the cost down to 99 cents.

4.  Finally, I redeemed a $5 ExtraBuck that I had from last week, which meant I paid only $2.29 after tax.  PLUS, I earned a total of $5 Extrabucks to use next week.

Look.  Nobody is going to get rich off these shenanigans.  But, now that I know I can pay $2.29 for brand name vitamins, deodorant, and toothpaste, when just one of those items would normally cost at least that much, I … cannot … MUST NOT … pay more. 

photo 1 photo 2

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 10, 2014

This Week’s Meal Plan & Grocery Haul

After using an amazing $10 off coupon Vons sent me, I spent just under $50 for six two-person dinners this week.

Receipt

We shall feast on the following:

SUNDAY – Grilled organic chicken breasts, served with asparagus (on sale for 99 cents a pound at Vons — !!) sauteed in garlic and olive oil, and baked potatoes.  No recipe needed for this meal — it was simple, and our 80-degree weather demanded grill usage yesterday. 

MONDAYStuffed bell peppers.  These aren’t my favorite, but my husband loves them, so I oblige ;)  I omit the canned, condensed tomato soup called for here, and instead use more canned tomatoes and a little extra kosher salt.  I’ll probably serve these with spinach sauteed in lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.

TUESDAY – Salmon burgers, served on whole wheat buns with a side of frozen peas or brussels sprouts.  I buy these wild Alaskan salmon burgers in bulk at Costco — they’re great, and relatively clean, considering they’re a processed frozen food.

WEDNESDAY – Homemade vegetarian pizza, topped with sauteed mushrooms, fresh tomato, and lots of chopped garlic.  I use this dough recipe from A Couple Cooks; it never fails!  I’ll serve this with a simple spinach salad with homemade lemon & olive oil dressing.

THURSDAY – Grilled fish tacos, made with this wild cod from Costco.  I’ll probably serve brown rice or quinoa on the side, both of which I have on hand.  [Shit; I just realized I forgot to buy tortillas.  Maybe this will have to end up as a grilled fish/teriyaki brown rice bowl.]

FRIDAY Corned beef & cabbage, served with new potatoes and carrots.  Love my crockpot, and love this meal once a year :D   

SATURDAY – we’ll wing it, order delivery, or we’ll go out.  Gotta live a little.

So this is what my $49.04 haul looked like:

Cabbage, organic spinach, mushrooms, pears, apples, cucumber, asparagus, two cans of albacore tuna, deli turkey, tomatoes, strawberries, radishes, kiwis, and a mango …

photo 2

Coffee, frozen waffles (I usually try to avoid this processed stuff, but these were on super sale), flour, baby carrots, potatoes, a pot roast that will go into the freezer for another week, corned beef, chopped walnuts for banana bread, frozen peas, frozen broccoli, and new potatoes.  Ignore the wine.  That’s leftover from a par-tay.  (Yeah.  Leftover wine?  Very rare in my house.)

photo 1

To be fair, much of what I need this week will come from my freezer of Costco meats and seafood.  I’m usually willing to spend more for organic and grass-fed meat and dairy, as well as for wild, non-farmed seafood, and Costco seems to be the best option for those.  Vons has just started carrying organic, grass-fed beef for about $7-8 a pound, for example. While it’s nice to have the good stuff available at the “regular” store, I usually buy 4 pounds of it for only $21 at Costco, and that will last me a month.  This week, I still bought a (non-organic) pot roast and corned beef at Vons because both were on super sale, and well, balance in everything, right?!

Mmkay, off to start my stuffed peppers … by the way, I’m looking for some good meal-planning/cooking blogs, if you have a recommendation.

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | March 9, 2014

How I Stopped Wasting Food and Money Every Week

Over the last few weeks, I’ve become obsessively dedicated to meal planning (and increasingly committed to couponing).  Although I had already started dabbling in couponing a few years ago, it was more of an occasional Sunday morning hobby until I added meal planning into my routine, too.  From that point on, both have been as regular as Sunday mass for the Pope.

In my household, the meal-planning revolution basically went like this:  Every week, I’d throw out produce and leftovers that went bad before my husband and I could eat them.  I’d be furious about how much money and food we were wasting.  After a toss-out session, the classic There are children in Africa who are STARVING! guilt trip would roll around in my head, still powerful after being used on me during childhood episodes of picky eating, and I’d vow to eat my fruits and veggies next week before they turned brown.  No more cash would end up in my trash can, right next to the rotting carrots.  NO MORE!

But the next week, the same exact thing would happen, because I wasn’t actually changing anything except my intention.  I’d do my grocery shopping the exact same way as I had the week prior – I’d wander the aisles, grabbing things that we like, but with only a vague sense of a meal or two that could be made from all the various ingredients.  “Oh, pasta sauce!  Yes.  Let’s get a bottle; it’s on sale.  Spinach!  Mmhmm, just had to throw ours out, so we need more.  Greek yogurt!  Salmon!  Broccoli!  Eggs!  All healthy and delicious.  Buy!  BUY.  BUY!!!!”

At the end of the shopping trip, I’d have a basket full of items we like to eat, but I’d still have no idea what we were having for dinner.  (Luckily, I love to cook, so something interesting usually came together … and my husband is eternally patient with my cooking experiments, god bless that man.) 

So, on one particularly guilt-ridden Sunday, I sat down with the Vons grocery store flyer, and I figured out (1) what was on sale, (2) what I could cook and wanted to eat that contained the items in (1), and (3) what we already had on hand for the recipes in (2). That first week, my grocery bill went from $120 to $75.  Just. From. Paying. Attention. To. Sales. Cycles.  So now, every Sunday, I repeat the process, and then, throughout the week, I eat real, home-cooked dinners, including fresh vegetables and fruit, and made with mostly organic meat and dairy.

Now that I’m several weeks into my routine, my weekly grocery bills are averaging $65 for two people – and this is for normal, healthy, real food.  Not Hot Pockets and International Delight coffee creamer.  I’ll try to post some photos of the haul and this week’s recipes so you don’t have to just take my word for it.

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | April 5, 2013

San Diego’s Mission de Alcala

A few months ago, I was dreaming up a list of sights I still haven’t seen in San Diego, despite having lived here (on and off) for six years.  The San Diego Mission de Alcala came to mind.  I gave it a shot on a random Sunday.     

Mission 1

Pretty, right?

But my “wtf” alarm went off immediately during the self-guided tour.  The buildings seemed too new – the Mission de Alcala was founded in 1769, but the structures just didn’t seem old.  Same for the artifacts. 

Sure enough – I came to find out that much of the site was restored in 1931 to match the original Mission

This sort of thing makes me cray cray.  I spent my elementary years visiting California sites like this on school field trips (coughcough, I’m looking at you, Sutter Fort).  This is how it works:  You pay an entrance fee or make a donation to tour a historical site that’s supposedly been preserved … only to learn, after entering, that the original buildings were torn down and rebuilt some years ago, and everything you’re looking at is actually a replica of what the historical site once looked like, before it was destroyed. 

Why is this so common in California?!  I feel like I toured historical sites in Boston and New York that were the real deal – old, preserved, and still in existence.  But it’s so rare to find that in California. 

Okay, rant over.  Now here is a picture of the (kind of creepy and Medieval??) chapel at the Mission de Alcala … Enjoy! ;)

Mission 2

Posted by: stuffimdoinginsandiego | April 3, 2013

San Diego’s Torrey Pines State Reserve

It’s been a while since I last posted, huh?!  Between my desk job, a few weekend trips here and there, wedding planning, and playing tourist in America’s Finest City, it’s been a lovely winter here in San Diego.

Last weekend, I spent an hour or two wandering Torrey Pines State Reserve.  Torrey Pines is located between La Jolla and Del Mar, and serves to protect both the coastline and the unique Torrey pine tree.  I try to visit every few months to get my oceanview fix.

Torrey Pines’ main attraction is its light hiking trails.  The Beach Trail is my favorite – it takes you through the bluffs and down to the flat rock seen in this photo.  Those little specks on the beach are people!

TP 1

When the tide is out, you can take the Beach Trail down to the coast, then walk north along the beach until you reach the entrance to the park, where you started your hike.

photo(2)

The rest of the Reserve is equally breathtaking – this particular area of coastline is home to a mile or so of bluffs that jut right up against the Pacific Ocean. The cliffs culminate in a dramatic drop to the beach, several hundred feet below. You can see La Jolla Cove, Blacks Beach, La Jolla Shores, and Del Mar from the top of the park.

photo

The only downside about Torrey Pines is parking.  It costs $15 to park your car within the park, but I’ve figured out a few ways around that. 

First, there’s free beach parking that runs parallel to Torrey Pines, and if you score a spot there, you can walk into the park on foot, for free. 

Second, there’s a parking lot East of the 101 and North of Torrey Pines, off of Carmel Valley Road and McGonigle Road.  The fees for parking in this lot vary by day, but you pay hourly, which can be cheaper than the flat $15 fee for parking inside the Reserve.  Once parked, you’ll just need to cross under the highway to reach the coast, and then walk south until you reach Torrey Pines’ entrance.  Parking here adds about a mile of walking to your visit.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you park within Torrey Pines, there are two options:  At the bottom of the bluffs, or at the top of the bluffs.  If you park at the bottom, be prepared for a nice, sweaty march up the hill to reach the hiking trails.  If you park at the top of the bluffs, you miss out on that extra 15 minutes or so of heart-pumping, ocean-side exercise.  I prefer the lower parking lot by far – love to get my sweat on next to the ocean!

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