10 Free Things To Do This Summer

photo credit: Smoke Trails via photopin (license)

It’s summer and everyone is ready to get out of the house and have some fun. Today’s post is 10 ways to have a great time without spending a penny, a win win.

  1. Story time at Barnes and Noble– Sit and listen to a story this summer. We love to go to Barnes and Noble and listen to stories once a week, and afterward we work on a craft or coloring. It’s totally free, unless Mom or Dad takes a trip to the in store Starbucks.
  2. Check out the library – Following up on story time, libraries offer story times, movies, and other great programs or activities during the week.
  3. Museum passes – If your library offers museum passes, take advantage! These are fabulous. Our library gives us access to two Children’s Museums and many others in our area. We can take up to 6 people with each pass! Visit your local library to find out more.
  4. Visit a farmer’s market – A great place to see and learn about colorful produce and flowers.
  5. Summer festivals – If it’s a summer staple, there is a festival for it! We went to a Red, White, and Blueberry Festival with blueberries as far as the eye can see.
  6. Fourth of July Fireworks – A must for the summer, pack a blanket and snacks.
  7. Be a hometown tourist – Take a fresh look at your hometown. What sights would you like to see if you were visiting for the first time?  Historical sites are often public places or parks and no cost.
  8. Take a nature hike – My daughter, Lillie, is amazed by the sights and sounds in the park when we go on the trails, she points to trees, flowers, and squirrels. Take time to look at the surroundings, or use a bird watching app, like this one from Cornell University.
  9. Movie night – Invite friends over, make popcorn, and watch a favorite movie. After all, no school in the morning.
  10. Visit a farm – During the week, we have a farm that is open to visitors for free (on the weekend you pay a small entry fee). We visit the farm stand, say hi to the goats and horses, and see apples growing on the trees.

Bonus ideas (not free but still fun!)

  1. The Philadelphia Art Museum offers a pay what you wish day twice a month. This is a chance for families to visit the museum without spending the $20 per adult and $14 per youth admission rates. Check to see if your museum does the same thing! Great for big families with older kids. Now cue the Rocky theme song.
  2. Visit a kids gym for open play, some offer free time for $5. It’s much cheaper than membership costs.
  3. Pack a picnic – pack up lunch and a big blanket and head to the backyard or a park.
  4. Put on a play or create a movie. With iPhones and iPads everyone can make a movie at home.

Save the cash for vacation and enjoy each day of summer!

5 Lunch Ideas Under 400 Calories

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Looking for healthy lunch options under 400 calories? Here they are!  The calorie counts for these 5 lunches are for specific brands, be sure to look at the packaging for the food you are preparing. Personally, I do not count vegetables, if you want to, add them but the amounts wouldn’t be too much.
Some of these ideas work best when you cook ingredients the night before, assemble and are ready to heat for lunch.

Stir-fry – 366 Calories

  • Steamed vegetables – Free
  • Trader Joe’s Baked Tofu – 150 Calories
  • 1 Cup Brown Rice – 216 Calories

Veggie Burger & Baked Potato – 360 Calories

  • Garden Burger – 100 Calories
  • Arnold’s Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins – 100 Calories
  • Spinach – Free
  • Condiments – 50 Calories
  • Baked Potato – 110 Calories
  • Salsa – 50 Calories

Soup and Salad – 300 Calories

  • 2 Cups Lentil Soup – 200 Calories
  • 2 Cups Mixed Greens with Veggies – Free
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Salad Dressing – 50 Calories
  • Croutons – 50

PB&J and Apple – 372 Calories

  • 2 Slices Ezekiel Bread – 160 Calories
  • 1 Tablespoon Natural Peanut Butter – 90 Calories
  • 1 Tablespoon raspberry jam – 50 Calories
  • Medium Red Apple – 72 Calories

Veggie Stuffed Pita – 320 Calories

  • Arnold’s Whole Wheat Pita – 200 Calories
  • Lettuce, Cucumber, Shredded Carrots, Sprouts – Free
  • 2 Tablespoons Hummus – 50 Calories
  • 1/4 Cup Chickpeas – 70 Calories

Do you think you’ll make any of these lunches?  Share your feed back in the comments below.

 

Crib Sheets Tutorial

I knew that with decorating Baby V’s nursery that I didn’t want to go out and buy a set from a store. I wanted to have the ability to personalize the room. One easy way to do this was to make my own crib sheets. If you search for sales, you can save money from buying from a store and you can get cute fabric to match your theme.

I made three designs in flannel fabric. I recommend getting a wider fabric because it will shrink when you wash and dry it.

Supplies:

  • 2 yards of fabric, at least 44 inches wide.
  • Matching thread
  • Elastic 1/4 inch thick, at least 4 yards
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron & ironing board

My mattress is a standard size. We opted for the Lullabye Earth mattress, if you’d like to compare sizes. You’re going to cut 8 x 8 inch from each corner. (if your mattress is a different size you may have to adjust accordingly.) You want the edge of your mattress it line up with the edge of the squares for a snug fit.

Crib SheetCrib Sheet 1 Crib Sheet 2

After cutting the fabric you’re going to sew a french seam on all four corners. To do this, put the wrong sides of the fabric together, pin, and stitch a straight line with 1/4 inch seam allowance. The closer to the edge the better. You will create a house like shape with the fabric, as seen below. For some reason, I could not visualize this before starting so if you’re like me, relax, it’s what you want. Do this to all four edges.

Crib Sheet 3Crib Sheet 4Very carefully, trim the fabric all the way to the seam, as close as you can get it without cutting what you’ve just sewn.

Crib Sheet 5

Flip the crib sheet inside out so the right sides face one another and iron the seams flat. You’re going to sew again with 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Crib Sheet 6You’ve created a french seam. This keeps the edges nice and neat, and when you wash it you won’t have to worry about the inside fraying. It’s very clean. Here’s a sneak peak of what the edge will look like.

Crib Sheet 7After you’ve done this to all four sides, add the elastic.  I did this by first ironing 1/4 inch all of the way around and then ironed and pinned 1/2 inch hem. This creates enough room for your elastic to work its way through. You’re going to sew ALMOST all of the way around, taking care at the edges, and leaving a 2 inch gap to string the elastic through.

Crib Sheet 8 Crib Sheet 9Put a safety pin on the end of your elastic and get to work working it through. Sit down in front of the TV because this part, for me, took the longest. The amount of elastic you will use will depend upon what you buy. I believe the type I used came in 8 yards, so I left it intact and worked it through.

Place the crib sheet on your mattress and adjust the elastic accordingly. This takes trial and error but you want to get the elasticity right. When you’ve decided how much elastic you want to use, simply sew a few lines on the overlapping ends and finish off the piece. I apologize for not taking a photo of this part of the process but I think it’s pretty easy to visualize. This is the underside view.Crib Sheet 10

There you have it! A custom made crib sheet. Have you made bedding before? Or are you working on homemade nursery decor? Share in the comments below!

Crib Sheet 12 Crib Sheet 11

 

 

12 Secrets to Save Money when Holiday Shopping Online

12 Secrets To Save When Online Holiday Shopping

It’s that time of year! I love the Christmas lights, holiday movies, homemade treats, and even the music. One thing I do not love is holiday shopping at the mall. It is chaos. You will not find me out at 3 am wrestling other customers for a TV or toaster.

My ideal shopping situation is sitting in my PJ’s drinking a mug of tea and buying gifts online as the snow falls. I avoid all of the stress of shopping and still get what I want and save money while doing so.

By this point shopping online is my thing, I try to save money however I can when online shopping so I can make my money go further. Here’s my list of 12 secrets to save money when holiday shopping online.

  1. Wait for the sale – It’s a game to figure out when your item will be on sale. You want to maximize savings with a sale and online coupon. I know that the Disney Store Online rotates through promo codes, sometimes up to 40%. I would never buy something without scoping out the deals and sales on their site for a few days. It’s absolutely worth it.
  2. Coupon codes, coupon codes, coupon codes – Need I say more? I do not buy anything online without a coupon/promo code or a really great sale. Google “XYZ Store Coupon Code” and see what pops up. Check out retailmenot.com and couponcabin.com sometimes you can find a really great code.  If you’re lucky, you can use more than one on an order. They are out there, it’s free money. Who doesn’t like free money?
  3. Sign up for Email Updates – Sign up for email updates from your favorite store, they are happy to tell you what they have on sale. What’s even better, you can sometimes get a discount code for signing up!
  4. Facebook – Like a store on Facebook, again, they will be happy to share with you their coupon codes and sales. Some coupon codes are just for their Facebook fans.
  5. EBates – I recently started using ebates and I was thrilled to receive $7.15 from a purchase I made at Old Navy online. Free money for doing almost nothing. You can sign up here and receive a $10 gift card when you make your first purchase. After signing up I got $10 gift card to Target and I saved $7.15. So I’m up to $17.15 for just a few clicks of the mouse. All you have to do is go to ebates first, choose the store and enter their site to check out. It’s so easy.
  6. Amazon Coupons – I really did not know about Amazon Coupons until I stumbled upon the site recently. It’s a gold mine. I saved $30 on a gift I bought. $30 from a website! Definitely check this out before you complete your order on Amazon. So many categories apply, books, electronics, toys, food and household items.
  7. Look for Gift Card Deals – This might require you to go to an actual store, or not. Check flyers and online deals for gift cards at a lower price such as a $25 gift card for $20. You can use this with your online purchase and save $5. A grocery store near my family offers “Fuel Perks” or money towards gasoline purchases, so they like to buy gift cards for their purchases and then get free/discounted fuel!
  8. Free Shipping – Do not pay for shipping. Many online retailers offer free shipping this time of year, some offer free shipping if you buy a certain amount of items, and some have coupon codes. Some stores such as LL Bean always have free shipping. Yay!
  9. Use Google Shopping – Did you know Google will price compare items for you? It’s awesome. Especially when buying bigger items, use Google Shopping to compare prices. If you’re looking for a specific item, search for it and the website will tell you who has the lowest price for your item. Note: Personally, I will only buy from stores that I am familiar with, there are a lot of online retailers that pop up with lower prices but I do not know their reputation so I will skip them and go to a retailer I know is credible.
  10. Be Cautious of Flash Sales – Sales with a timer are tricky psychologically. It could get you to buy something you really don’t want just because there is a timer on it. Think it through first.
  11. Create an Account – Avoid checking out as a guest on a site. By signing up for an account with the company, you will receive updates and your order attached to your name will be in the system. This helps a lot if you have an issue or need to return an item, since you are already in the system.
  12. Check Prices Later – If a product you buy goes on sale after you’ve purchased it, you can contact the company to see if they will refund the difference. It never hurts to ask and you could save!

There you have it, 12 ways to save money with holiday shopping! What tips do you have for online shopping? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions.

Happy Shopping!

Disclaimer: The ebates link goes to my tell-a-friend account, this means that if you sign up I receive a little bonus for telling a friend.

 

Tackle The Junk… Tips From A Reformed “Hoarder”

Tips to tackle the junk

I think I spent my childhood and teen years preparing for an audition for the TV show Hoarders… I saved EVERYTHING. Why? I’m not sure, I think I was trying to hold onto things as if I got rid of it it would disappear from my life. Control freak much? One year, there was a tearful garage sale when I discovered that my precious My Little Ponies were on the table for sale. It was not pretty. While I am much better at letting go of my things, it is still a struggle. Can you relate?

This past weekend I cleaned my closet. I love clothes, purses, and shoes so my closet can get a bit hectic. Pair that with bags and boxes of VHS tapes, burned CDs, art supplies, miscellaneous computer cables, art projects, and cards from loved ones, I had/have a big collection.

How do I get past my need to save everything?

  1. Recognize that you are not your stuff – Things are tangible representations the fun we had at a concert or on vacation. The ticket stub is just a piece of paper. Pictures can be preserved but best in an album, scrapbook, or on your computer (with a back up in a safe place). I know I don’t look at photos when they are in an unorganized box. You are not your stuff, it’s ok to let it go.
  2. Someone else can use it – Really. Donate old clothes so someone else can wear them, donate work and dress clothes to Dress for Success. An organization that provides professional attire for disadvantaged women. Set up a yard sale with neighbors or join eBay. Big items such as furniture can be sold on craig’s list or donated to Good Will. I find it much easier to part with something when I know that someone else can put it to good use. That makes me happy.
  3. Organize it – If you have stuff, organize it. When you get like things side by side you can prioritize what to keep. If you have 3 white sweaters, look at them together and try them on at the same time. Now you can decide what to keep and what to donate. Keep what looks great on you and nothing less. The only exception is if it is a functional item which serves a real purpose. A thick, heavy sweater for a cold blustery day is good to keep on hand. I know I really only need one of these.
  4. Scrapbook it – My girlfriend, Amanda, is a scrapbooking queen, I’m jealous of her dedication to it. She puts all of her pictures and memories in a book together. Having it all in one place helps to relive the memories. If you have all of your memories in one place, all of the extra stuff isn’t necessary.
  5. Stop it before it starts – The best junk to get rid of is the junk you don’t take home. A few years ago I made a resolution to only collect Christmas ornaments as vacation souvenirs. They’re small, and seasonal. So far it’s working. I try not to take papers or books from concerts and shows. I try to only buy clothes that I really like, fit me well, and look to be durable. Big sales are great but if I buy something I do not love, it will not be worn. And then I’m just wasting money.

Do any of these tips help you feel better about getting rid of things in your closet? Here’s one last tip if parting ways with your beloved stuff is too much to bear.

  • Make a Transition Box – Sort out the things you want to keep but haven’t used in a while. If you feel that you must keep this stuff but don’t have a need now for it, commit to putting it in a box for 6 months to 1 year. If you need it, take it out to use it but if you do not need or use the items in your box within your specified time period, you take that box and give it to Good Will. Say goodbye to the stuff and hope it has a long happy life with its new owners who can use it.

Does that help? It helps subside the anxious feeling I get when I think about parting with things. I know that if I don’t use it by the time the next season rolls around I probably won’t use it. And if I do want to keep it, I will find a way to use it.

Do you have a hard time parting with your things? Please share your tips below. I’d love to hear your ideas. Check back on Thursday when I share the process I went through when cleaning out my closet. I find that having a system is so so helpful.