Food Budgeting Q & A

How to Get Your Food Budget Under Control

Q: Why is food difficult to budget for?

A: We eat everyday. We have to, right? Even if we’ve already blown our budget for the month, we still have to eat. Also, we tend to do whatever is convenient, especially when we are busy or tired. Our good intentions can go right out the door when life is hard. Finally, we aren’t very good at keeping track of what we really pay for our food. Not just groceries, but restaurants, school lunch plans convenience food and snack are all apart of the food budget.

Food Budgeting Pinable Image

Q: How can I be better at budgeting for food?

A: The first step is to be honest about your spending. If you really eat out a lot, include that in your budget. Even better, figure out why you are going for the convince food trap. Do you have sports nights or late meetings every Thursday, for example? If you can plan for it, make something ahead of time. Ready to bake casseroles, crock pots started in the morning, even planning to reheat a can of soup can be strategies for saving on impulse dinners. Have a plan and you will not need convince foods.

Q: Ok. So planning ahead will help me stick to my food budget. Where do I start? How do I plan?

A: Use a weekly menu planner that you like. There are digital ones, but I suggest starting with paper and pencil. Start your meals with your favorites. Your easy family pleasers. Look at what ingredients you already have in the house. Also, use the grocery circular and plan meals around sales – especially with proteins that can be expensive.

Q: Any other tips to keep the food budget under control?

A: Use the sales ads to plan your grocery trip. They come int he newspaper, but are also on the store’s website, e-mail, store app, etc. There’s no excuse for to look over the weekly ad.

    Use coupons. Paper, digital, whatever! Use them! They add up and are basically free money. You can print coupons for free here. The ibotta app is a great way to start digitally with grocery coupons.

    Stick to your meal plan. If you buy the food and then feel too lazy to cook it and then buy drive-thru, you end up wasting double. 

Getting Started


Here are some good resources to get you saving money on your grocery bills right away.

12 Printable Menu Planners Pinable Image

Start with a plan.

Use electronic coupons. 

USA Science & Engineering Festival Hosts FREE Virtual Festival this fall!

After the cancellation of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, held every two years in Washington DC, this last spring, planners have been working with their guest speakers and exhibitors to bring as much of the festival to attendees as possible. You can watch the replays of the X-STEM speakers series from the spring here. It is appropriate for kids (best for middle school and up.)

This fall, attendees of all ages will be able to engage directly with sponsors and exhibitors virtually. There will be over 100 STEM activities to try out! There will be games and videos and virtual “booths.”

This should be fun for kids. It is also an opportunity for high school students to interact with college recruiters from the STEM field. Teachers are encouraged to attend as well and incorporate this event into their educational content. 

 

Connor Alvarez

Brand Expert

Johanna Simpson

Engineer

Each attendee is required to register separately. All registrations are completely FREE. Access will be available online September 26-October 3, 2020.

 

Getting Books at Deep Discounts

As a mother of young children, I think that it is important to give them lots of exposure to reading. The local library is great place to get started. But you might want to own books, rather than always borrowing them. I have filled the shelves of my home with children’s books. Of the the hundreds of books that we have, only a handful were purchased at full price. Most were purchased at discount sales. And, here’s the good part, those sales almost always have fiction, non-fiction, and media for adults also.

Library Book Sales

These are sales put on by the advisory boards of libraries across the county. Each sale is different and not every library has one. They are selling donated books to benefit their library. Note: these sales are usually not selling discarded library books. Here are the 2020 sales in Loudoun County. Unless noted, they are held within the library.

 

BRANCH DONATION GUIDELINES MAJOR BOOK SALE
 Ashburn Donations of books (all formats), CDs, and DVDs will be collected Jan. 3-22 during regular library hours. Friday, Jan. 24: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 25: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 26: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.       
 Brambleton Donations of books, DVDs, CDs and records in good condition will be accepted during regular library hours Monday, Feb. 24 through Friday, Feb. 28 in Meeting Room A on the second floor. Friday*, Feb. 28: 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 29: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, Mar. 1: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.*$20 entry fee on pre-sale Friday. 
Cascades Donations are not currently accepted TBD
Gum Spring Donations are currently being accepted through March 10, 2020.

Friends of the Gum Spring Library memberships can be purchased at the door or online at friendsofthegumspringlibrary.org

Thursday*, March 12: 6-9 p.m.
Friday, March 13: 10a.m.-7p.m.
Saturday, March 14:
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, March 15: 1-4 p.m.
*Members only
Lovettsville Lovettsville Library accepts donations of books, DVDs and CDs during regular operating hours. Oktoberfest in September
Middleburg Donations are no longer accepted at this branch.  
Purcellville Donations are not currently accepted.  TBD
Rust Donations are not currently accepted.  TBD
Sterling Donations are not currently accepted.   

In addition to the sales put on by individual libraries, there is one mega sale held every summer by The Loudoun Library Foundation, Inc. The 2020 sale, held in June will be their 31st annual event. The 2012 sale brought in over $40,000 with an estimated 3,100 shoppers!

 

Surplus

Once a month there is an online auction for surplus items and often there are entire pallets of books being sold for just a few dollars. I like books, but not enough to dig through all kinds of random books that I have to bring home in the back of my pick-up truck.

Thrift Stores

Books are cheep at thrift stores. Most books sell at about 5-10% of their new cover price. There’s lots of thrift stores in Loudoun and some are better than others for finding a good selection of books. For a list of stores, click here.

The Ladies Board of Inova Loudoun Hospital, which runs the Twice is Nice Thrift Shop, holds an annual rummage sale at Morven Park in October. There is an entire barn dedicated to used books of all kinds. This rummage sale is so great. It has been named the BEST CHARITY EVENT IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA for three years in a row by Virginia Living Magazine.

Book Swaps

Ok. This one won’t really increase your collection. But, as your kids grow, so do their interests in books. Why not find someone who’s also bored with their books to do a swap. I usually do this at least once a year with my mother’s group and end up bringing home a few good books that I didn’t have before.  If you have a group of adult friends with similar interests, you may want to do this sometime. If you’re the coordinator, you can offer to collect any unwanted books (how sad) at the end of the swap and donate them.

There is an organized book swap at South Riding Town Hall (43055 Center St.) Tuesday, March 5, 2020, 6pm-8pm. More info.

Little Flower Consignments Spring Sale

Little Flower Consignments 2020 Spring Sale: Early Shopping Pass Giveaway

With two sales each year, once in the spring and again in the fall, Little Flower Consignments is one of the largest children’s consignment sales in Loudoun County. At the sale you will find gently used baby and children’s clothing, baby gear and furniture, accessories, toys, maternity, and more. Everything is priced far below retail.

We are giving away two free early admission passes to the Little Flower Consignments Spring Sale. Contest runs March 4th through March 6th. Passes are good for EARLY ADMISSION to the sale.  Visit our Facebook page to enter. Winner will be selected at random and notified on March 7th.

Little Flower Consignments Spring Sale

Saturday, March 14, 2020

DUE TO COVID-19, THE SALE HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

St. Theresa’s School
21370 St Theresa Ln, Ashburn

Public Sale: 8am – 12 noon

Half-Price Sale: 12:30-2pm

Dollar Dash: 4-5pm

Early admission pass holders: 7:15am
Pre-Sale: 7:30 am (teachers & military, and first responders, with valid ID)
No strollers permitted inside sale area. No children admitted before 8am.

 

CONTEST RULES:

Eligibility: Little Flowers Consignment Early Shopping Pass Giveaway is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who are at least eighteen (18) years old at the time of entry. The contest is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Sponsor: The contest is sponsored by Loudoun Mom Discounts and Deals and Little Flower Consignments, both located in Loudoun County, Virginia. The contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Agreement to Official Rules: Participation in the contest constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding. Winning prize is contingent upon being compliant with these official Rules and fulfilling all other requirements set forth herein.

Contest Period: The contest begins on March 4, 2020 and ends on March 6, 2020 at 11:59PM. Entries that are submitted before or after the contest period will be disqualified. Submissions will be accepted for the duration of the contest only online through Facebook.

How to Enter: Visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LoudounMomDiscountsDeals) and follow the directions provided. Limit one (1) entry person, per Facebook account, and per household for the duration of the contest period. Entries received from any person, account, or household in excess of the stated limitation will be void. All entries become the property of the sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned.

Prize Drawing: On or about March 7, 2020, Loudoun Mom Discounts and Deals will select potential winners in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received. The odds of being selected depend on the number of entries received. Loudoun Mom Discounts and Deals will attempt to notify the potential winner via Facebook messenger on or about March 7, 2020. If the potential winner cannot be contacted within two (2) days after the date of the first attempt to contact him/her, Loudoun Mom Discounts and Deals may select an alternate potential winner in his/her place at random from the remaining non-winning, eligible entries.

Winner Notification: The potential winners will be notified by Facebook messenger. Each winner will be required to respond within two (2) days of the date notice or attempted notice is sent, in order to claim his/her early shopping pass.

Prize: Two prizes given away. Each is an early admission pass to the Little Flowers Consignment Sale on March 14, 2020; one (1) pass for winner. Early admission begins at 7:15 am the day of the sale.

General Conditions: If the contest is not capable of running as planned for any reason including, but not limited to, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, Internet failures and disruptions, and ISP problems, or any other causes, which, in the sponsor’s sole judgment, corrupts or affects the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this contest, the sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion and determination of fairness, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the contest and to select winners from eligible entries received prior to such action, in accordance with these official rules. Sponsors may disqualify any entrant who tampers with the entry process, operation of the contest, or violates these official rules.

Best Shopping Deals in March


Kid’s Stuff

March is the beginning of the Children’s Consignment Sale season. You’ll be able to get great discounts on previously used clothes, cribs, bikes, toys, and more at local consignment sales.

Frozen Food

It may finally be warming up outside, but its a perfect time to think frozen at the grocery store. March is National Frozen Food Month. Look for sales and coupons. Stock up! But don’t buy more than you can eat in several months. Even frozen food won’t taste good forever.

You can also enter the March Frozen Food Month $10,000 sweepstakes on EasyHomeMeals.com, where one winner will receive a $1000 supermarket gift card and eighteen winners will receive $500 supermarket cards.

Easy Home Meals Sweepstakes

Ski Gear

With Ski season coming to a close, many stores will have deep discounts on skis, coats, and other winter gear.


Leesburg's 23rd Annual Spring Bling

March 7, 2020

9 am – 4 pm

Ida Lee Recreation Center

Admission & parking, FREE!

Town of Leesburg Hosts 23rd Annual Spring Bling, Hometown Fine Arts and Crafts Show, Saturday, March 7, 2020

Leesburg’s Annual Spring Arts & Crafts Show will be held March 7, 2020 from 9am to 4pm.

The event is indoors at Ida Lee Recreation Center. 

Handcrafted items will be on display from more than 70 local and regional artisans. Shop for one-of-a-kind items from unique art and home décor, bath and body items, jewelry, wood crafts, florals, gourmet foods, and other miscellaneous products.

The crafts show offers a great opportunity to find the perfect gift for upcoming occasions, such as Easter, Mother’s Day, graduations and end-of-school teacher appreciation.  Admission to the crafts show and parking is free.

For more information, please contact the Town of Leesburg’s Park and Recreation Department at 703-777-1368 or visit www.idalee.org

 

Buying Public Surplus

WHAT IS IT?

Local governments sell their excess property. Sometimes there are new items that were over-purchased. Most of the time, they are items that are no longer needed because their condition warranted an upgrade or because because there simply was no longer a need for it. Locally, surplus comes from the Loudoun County Government offices, Parks and Recreation, Public Schools, Prison, and Libraries. Unclaimed items confiscated by the Sheriff’s Office are also for auction.

WHAT’S FOR SALE?

Typical office furniture and supplies, bicycles, electronics, toys, computers, school supplies, art supplies, musical instruments, sports equipment, shop and power tools, cars and trucks from the motor pool, medical equipment, musical instruments, housewares, and clothing. The list goes on. Actually, even if you never bid on an auction item, perusing the listings is at least an interesting way to pass some time.

I recently pick up some new items for a fairy garden for only two dollars.

HOW DO I GET IT?

You will need to check out the monthly surplus auctions on the online public auction site, Public Surplus.

When you get to the site, you can browse by specific agencies, but I suggest using the search feature to quickly narrow down all the live auctions near to you. If you decide that watching the site is your kind of thing, go ahead and register with them. You can sign up to receive “Auctions of Interest” e-mails. You will also be able to save items in a watch list as you ponder over your purchase. If you win, you make arrangements to pick your item up soon after the auction ends.

Until July, 2015, there was also a once-a-month brick and mortar store where you could shop for surplus items, including books. Apparently, the auction site has been so successful that they have completely switched over to only online auction sales.

 

June 5-7, 2020 Virginia Free Fishing DaysVirginia Free Fishing Days 2020

Virginia’s Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) would like you to try out a day (or weekend) of fishing. They are sure you’ll be hooked! I’m pretty sure the pun is intended. 

For folks over the age of 16 to fish legally in Virginia, they need to have purchased an annual fishing license. But for one weekend a year, everyone is encouraged to try out fishing for free. 

This year’s Free Fishing Days are June 5-7, 2020. No fishing license required.

Around the state, DGIF will be hosting events aimed at teaching people how to fish including providing loaner rods, tackle, bait, and fishing instruction. More info on those events, visit the DGIF website.

 

Spring 2020 Consignment Sales in Loudoun County, Virginia

Consignment sales are where some of the best deals can be found for children’s clothes, baby gear, toys, and more. You can fill an entire closet for a fraction of the price of purchasing new.

I realize that most my readers will be satisfied with sales in Loudoun County, but I’ve also posted a few that in neighboring counties that might be worth the drive for you. Before you jump in the car, please check out the sales’ websites for detail. Some have admission to the sale, others restrict children, and many have a half price selling period – all good to know.

Consignment sales are also a great way to make some extra money selling your gently used stuff. For example: that baby swing in the basement that none of your kids would sit in for more than a few minutes could bring you in big bucks. This list is also good to get you started if you’re thinking about becoming a consignor. Remember, busier longer sales might give your items more shoppers, but smaller sales give you less competition.

Spring 2020 Consignment Sales

 

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Community: A Vision for Our Future”, focusing on the dream of achieving racial equality and harmony in our community and nation.

29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Scheduled for Monday, January 20, 2020, Downtown Leesburg

Marchers will gather on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn in downtown Leesburg at 10 a.m. and will proceed from the courthouse on East Market Street to the Douglass Community Center (405 East Market Street) beginning at approximately 10:15 a.m. Individuals, families, churches, and community organizations are invited to participate and walk together during the march.

East Market Street, from King Street to Church Street, will be closed at 9:30 a.m. in preparation for the march. Once the march begins, rolling street closures will take place in the eastbound lanes of East Market Street, from Church Street to the Douglass Community Center, as the parade proceeds. Drivers should follow police direction and be prepared for minor delays.

Following the march, refreshments will be served at the Douglass Community Center. Musical performances, presentations, and inspirational offerings will be made by members of the community, including keynote speaker Dr. Jason Nichols.

Nichols is an award winning full-time lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park and was the long time editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journey of Hip Hop Culture, the first peer-reviewed journal of Hip-hop studies. Nichols is also a progressive political and social analyst whose work has been featured in publications such as The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Foxnews.com, NBCNews.com, and more.  Dr. Nichols currently cohosts “The Fifth Element” talk radio show on WPFW 89.3fm in Washington, DC.

There will also be a community forum offered at Douglass from 9 to 10 a.m. featuring a dialogue between youth and elders.

Attendees to the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration are encouraged to participate in a canned food drive to benefit Loudoun Hunger Relief. This local charity has a special need for nonperishable meat products. Drop off area for the food drive will be at Douglass Community Center from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The founding sponsors for this event are the Loudoun NAACP, Douglass Alumni Association, Bluemont Concert Series, and the Baha’i Community of Loudoun. Individuals, families, schools, businesses, civic and religious organizations are all welcome to participate. For more information, contact Tammy Carter at 571-331-4721, Kimberly Etherith at 703-314-1491 or Lily Dunning at 540-539-5651