Tuesday, June 30, 2009

La Michoacana

After receiving many inquiries about the food we served at our daughter's first birthday party I thought it was time to let you in on my little secret to throwing a party on a budget... La Michoacana Meat Market. Almost every time we have a party we serve fajitas and we buy everything from La Michoacana. The meat tastes amazing and it comes pre-marinated. The only thing you have to do cook it for a few minutes on the grill or however you like and it is done. We also buy our pico de gallo, salsa, limes and tortillas there.
Let's talk money. I went to La Michoacana again today to help a friend with a party and to pick up some meat for dinner. I bought marinated chicken fajita meat for $2.99 per pound. I bought 3 pounds of chicken for $9. It is a large bag of chicken and will last us for several days, especially when you plan on serving it on a tortilla with pico and salsa. I also got 2 pounds of marinated beef fajita meat at $4.59 per pound. They sell homemade pico de gallo for $1.99 per container. Their pico is amazingly fresh and very very spicy. They use fresh jalapenos in their pico. They also sell packs of about 100 corn tortillas for $2.50. If you go down the ailes and look on the shelves they have a La Sabrozita salsa which comes in a 35 oz. container for $1.
You can buy meat for a party based on how many people you expect or you can do what we do which is go in and buy a bunch of meat and freeze whatever you don't use. We also freeze our tortillas.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Healthy food on a budget

Back in the day...when we had a regular income, I used to cruise around the grocery store throwing whatever I wanted in my cart. I knew nothing about budget shopping and didn't think I needed to know anything about budget shopping. We all need to know about budget shopping. No matter your financial situation being smart about your grocery bill can help you save a ton of money.
What do I wish I would have known then that I know now? Buy Frozen! Frozen foods are cheaper and easier than non-frozen foods and I promise if you came to my house and sat at my dinner table you wouldn't know the difference. One of my absolute favorite products is Tyson 100% natural boneless skinless chicken breast which comes flash frozen in bags of 6 breasts per bag. We practically live on this chicken. You can cook it from frozen or put it in a pan in the fridge and let it thaw over night. It generally costs between $6 and $9 a bag. I never buy it at higher than $6 a bag. When I am at the store I always check to see how much it is going for and if it is on sale for $6 I buy as many bags as I can. This chicken has no artificial ingredients, no hormones administered and is recommended by the American Heart Association. The best part is that I cook it for my toddler and 6 year old with nothing on it and they love it!
Frozen fish is another one of my budget secrets. Most people think of frozen fish sticks when I say frozen fish...no this is about heatlthy food on a budget...we don't do fried fish in this house. I buy frozen tilapia filets. Fresh non-frozen fish costs a fortune and is far from being budget friendly. Different stores carry different brands, but all of the ones we have tried so far have been great. They come in bags individually wrapped with about 8 fillets per bag for about $7.75 per bag. I know you can find them at Walmart and Target, but you are probably going to have to look for them they aren't as advertised as other products. I am a huge supporter of fish, it is probably one of the all around healthiest meats you can eat. Not only do we eat fish when we can we also take fish oil pills and give fish oil pills to our dogs.
Now onto the sides. We eat a ton of veggies! Once again, unless there is a sale, we buy frozen. Walmart carries a brand called Great Value that is a good bargain. A 1 lb. bag of frozen veggies costs you $0.98 a bag. You can get frozen carrots, green beans, corn, peas, etc. To cook I throw the veggies in a tupperware container, pour 2 tablespoons of water over them and cook for 6-8 minutes. I usually don't season them because whatever is leftover after dinner will be lunch or a snack for our toddler the next day.
Instead of buying expensive snacks for the kids I buy a big bag of pretzels, animal crackers, goldfish or whatever and spend 5 minutes with Ziploc baggies and divide them up into snack bags. This is better than buying snack bags because you know how much your kids will eat better than the snack companies and it saves you a ton of money.
In order to not turn this post into a 20 page essay I am going to leave it short and write more about money saving shopping including making your own household cleaners in later posts. Let me know if you have any tips or ideas you would like me to share with my readers!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dallas Zoo

Most people in the Dallas area have been to the Dallas Zoo at least once. I don't need to go into any lengthy explanation about the attractions, what I do want to tell you about is the little known budget friendly deal of zoo membership. General admission to the zoo is $10 per adult (ages 12-64) $7 per child (ages 3-11; children 2 and under are free) and $7 per senior (ages 65 and up). On top of that you have to pay $5 per car to park. To break it down, for me, my husband, my step-daughter and my toddler to go to the zoo we would pay $32 for one day! Ouch! That hurts the budget and makes the zoo a once a year experience! Now I do need to mention that you get a discount admission with same day DART pass: $7 admission per adult and $4 admission per child. A DART rail day pass is $3 per person per day. Therefore, after buying DART passes, it would cost my family $27 to get into the zoo. It's not a bad deal if you don't mind sitting on the DART with your kids for an hour or more. I am not too fond of trying to find a seat and keep my toddler still for an hour.
A Dallas Zoo family membership which includes 2 named adults from the same household and their children or grandchildren costs $79 per year. As a Dallas Zoo member you get free admission whenever you go as well as free parking and a 10% discount on all food and merchandise. $69 of the cost of your membership is a tax write off, I believe as a charitable donation. There are also member only events that you will receive invitations come and visit the zoo after normal zoo hours. The best part of the membership is that your membership is also good at 150 other zoos and aquariums through a reciprocal program. In Texas alone there are 12 other zoos that a Dallas zoo member will either get in free or get in at a discounted rate. This includes free admission to the Houston Zoo, Cameron Park Zoo, and 50% off your admission to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Next year you will also get into the Dallas Aquarium which is scheduled to re-open in 2010. My family used this discount when we took a vacation to Kansas City this summer and got 50% off our admission to the Kansas City Zoo.
Whether or not you decide to buy a membership I recommend that you check out the tiger exhibit. The tigers are in a very natural environment and this exhibit and the gorilla exhibit are like nothing I had ever seen before. You look down on the animals who are surrounded by trees and practically oblivious to the people around them. Also, if you have children the Lacerte Children's Zoo section is a blast! You may have to pry your kids away from the man-made creek designed for the kids to play in!

  • Web Site: www.dallaszoo.com
  • Address: 650 South R.L. Thorton Freeway (I-35E) Dallas 75203
  • Contact: (214) 943-2771
  • Stroller Rental: $6 for a wagon $9 for a Safari Jeep (seats 2)
  • You can bring in all of your own food, drinks, stroller, ice chest, etc.
  • Hours: 9am-5pm daily

Friday, June 26, 2009

Urban Crust in Plano

It is going to be very difficult to get a seat in this restaurant once the word gets out about this pizza. Urban Crust is the newest and hippest addition to downtown Plano. It features a wood-fire pizza oven and a chic rooftop bar. Already well-known the rooftop bar, 32 degrees, is an ice bar with liquor taps that pour Grey Goose, Patron Silver, and Jagermeister at -5 degrees. On the bottom floor, where the entrance is located, you can order your pizza and watch them make it or you can watch one of the HD TVs which seem to hang everywhere you turn. Each booth has it's own HD TV.
During our visit, co-owner and Master Chef Salvatore Gisellu actually stopped by our table during our visit to make sure we liked our pizza. It was so comforting to get such friendly service rather than the typical turn and burn that most restaurants emphasize. I would like to use this opportunity to mention that they have the best calamari I have ever had! I brought some home for my husband and he loved it too. They also serve a pita type bread before the meal with a tomato spread and an olive spread which are out if this world!
As a busy mom on a budget I recommend that you take your kids at lunch or an early dinner for a special occasion or a reward for good behavior. We spent about $16 for a 12-inch pizza and an appetizer of calamari. The prices are not the cheapest in town, but these are higher quality ingredients than your average pizza place.

Web site: www.urbancrust.com
Address: 1006 E. 15th Street Plano 75074
Phone: 972-509-1400

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oak Point Recreation Center Pool/Spray Park in Plano

Oak Point Rec. Center Pool

  • Indoor and outdoor pools with slides and spray features
  • Indoor lap pool
  • Outdoor pool is open June, July and August
  • Must be at least 48 in. tall to use bigger slides, there is a smaller slide outside with no height requirement
Daily Admission Fee: Ages 3-16 $3 per day, Ages 17 and up $6 per day
Location: 6000 Jupiter Rd. Plano, TX
Contact: (972) 941-7540

This pool is a fantastic alternative to going to a larger more expensive water park for kids under 10 (kids over 10 may get bored more easily at a smaller water park like this one) . The large water parks like Hurricane Harbor charge $24.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids under 48 inches and you have to pay to park!
Oak Point has an indoor baby pool and a zero-depth beach entry to the outdoor pool. In addition to a large indoor slide and a large outdoor slide they have a slide like you would see at a park that is located in the middle of the pool and the kids land in the water. The outdoor pool is not a deep pool, which is great for kids who are still struggling with swimming. There are also 3 water mushrooms which pour down water.
This is not the cheapest pool/spray park out there, but it is one of the most fun. For me, our 6 year old and our 1 year old to get in we paid $9. It is not a bad deal for what you get. A big bonus is that you can bring in all of your own drinks and food. There are covered tables if you can grab one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Like every good book I suppose this blog needs an introduction. I am writing this blog because, like many of you out there, my husband lost his job. It happened 5 months ago and, as many people are, we were totally shocked. I always thought that people lost their jobs because they were lazy or incompetent or they disobeyed orders. My husband was the hardest most loyal worker I had ever seen, that was part of the reason I fell in love with him. Needless to say we have had our ups and downs in the past 5 months, but as of yet, he has yet to find steady work. Every day I see him fight for even the smallest jobs to make ends meet and I must say that I am more proud of him now than I have ever been.
What happens when life gives you lemons? Make lemonade....or just throw them at someone....whatever floats your boat. I have become extremely creative and resourceful with our current budget restrictions. I have started a notebook with my reviews on places based on how much fun they are and on how much they cost in relation to what they offer. I will also review restaurants based on cost, quality of food and family friendliness. Hopefully my reviews and research will give you some insight into some of the places in the Dallas area that are great for busy moms on a budget! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.