Sunday, July 29, 2012

Get it for Free: Clothes for the Whole Family!!

Today's super saver tip is a GREAT one! Buying clothing for a family of seven seems like it would be an expensive task, but by taking advantage of clearance sales, coupons, and rewards I am able to keep our clothes budget to a minimum. My absolute favorite is Old Navy's smartphone app Snap Appy.

Snap Appy works with the camera on your smartphone (or wifi enabled iPod with a camera) to "snap" pictures of Old Navy logos, and then rewards you with coupons and fashion advice. While the fashion advice is appreciated, it is the coupons that make this app a real winner! You can generally get three coupons every week - $5 off a $25 purchase, $15 off a $75 purchase, and the real deal - $5 off of ANY purchase!! That means that you can score $5 worth of free clothes - EVERY WEEK! If you have multiple devices like I do you can score even more! Occasionally Old Navy will also include a $10 off of any purchase coupon, which is even better!

Old Navy generally has awesome clearance and sale prices, so you should be able to find some real steals. This week I was able to use my phone, my husband's phone, and my iPod to score this adult polo, child's polo, and two pairs of toddler pajamas absolutely free!!

Download the app today and get snapping! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Honest Company Bargain!

The Honest Company was founded by Jessica Alba in an attempt to provide safe, effective, and stylish products for families with kiddos. They have a wide range of products - diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent - and lots more! They offer two options - bundle your products for one low, monthly cost, or pick and choose what you need from their online shop.

Now, here's the deal! Plum District is offering a $40 voucher to The Honest Company for just $20! To make this deal even sweeter, they are offering an additional 20% off using code LONDON20. The voucher you receive will cover the entire cost of one month of the Family Essentials Bundle which includes 5 personal and household care products, or it will cover half the cost of one month of the Diapers Bundle, which includes 6 packs of diapers and 4 packs of baby wipes! If you decide not to purchase a bundle, you can also apply the voucher towards the cost of any items in their online shop.

If you choose to do a bundle, feel comfortable knowing that they have a no-hassle cancellation process. You simply make a quick phone call, and they won't put you through an annoying spiel if you do choose to discontinue receiving their products.

What are you waiting for?! Head on over to Plum District and give The Honest Company a try today!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Free Christmas Tip #3: Opinion Outpost!

Opinion Outpost is another site that allows you to earn PayPal funds or Amazon gift cards. When you sign up they will send you an email when a study is available for you to participate in. The surveys can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, and the pay off is usually proportionate to the amount of time spent taking the survey. If you stay on top of the surveys they offer it is quite easy to accumulate quite a lot of rewards! I like to do surveys in the evenings after the kids go to bed, but before winding down with a book and conversation with my husband.

Sign up for Opinion Outpost now and start bankrolling those Barbies and Legos!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade Cheese Crackers - YUMMO!

There are a few versions of this floating around the net, but I added and changed a few things to suit our tastes. This recipe is awesome for a lot of reasons. First, by making your own snackies versus serving Goldfish, or even the organic bunny shaped crackers, you are eliminating all of those crazy ingredients that you can't pronounce. Everything in this recipe is a pantry staple! Second, this is a chance to bring your kids into the kitchen and get them involved in the process, and interested in the food that they eat. What kiddo can resist tiny cookie cutters?!

Here's what you will need:

1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
4 Tbs butter, kept cold and cut into chunks (if using salted butter, omit the salt below)
1 tsp salt
2 cups sharp cheddar or other flavorful cheese, shredded (keep in mind that the more flavorful your cheese choice, the more flavor your crackers will have, so aim for one with a bite!)
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
3-5 Tbs cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I started with a block of cheese, so I began by shredding my chedda' in the food processor ... (I made a double batch, so keep that in mind when my ingredients look disproportionate to what is written above. Since I have five kids and a snack-obsessed husband, one batch of anything just doesn't cut it!)

Next, set the cheese aside and combine the flour, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, baking powder, and pepper in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse them a few times, just to combine.

Add in the butter and cheese, and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Once your mixture is crumbly, add in the water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.

Remove your dough ball from the food processor and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator to rest for 45 minutes or so (I tossed mine in the freezer for 15 minutes instead. I'm impatient like that.)

Once your dough ball has had a chance to chill, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, until it is approximately 1/8 inch thick.

At this point you can decide what shape you would like for your crackers. If you are working without small helpers you could certainly use a pizza cutter or knife to simply make small squares, similar to a Cheez It. I took the kids to Hobby Lobby and let them choose these fun little cutters.

Bake your shapes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size and shape you chose. The crackers are done when the edges are slightly golden and the crackers are crisp! Allow the little guys to cool, and then store them in a tightly sealed container for up to a week or so.

Our entire family was REALLY impressed with the ease of the recipe, and everyone loves the taste! They have just the right amount of cheesy flavor, and are obsessively snackable!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homemade Christmas Gift Idea - Fabric Flower Hair Clips/Bands

 Today I want to share a SUPER simple, but awesome Christmas (or birthday, or any time!) gift idea for the little ladies in your life! These fabric flowers are super popular right now, and sell on Etsy for $10 or more. I am going to show you how to make them for MUCH less, and in only 20 minutes or so.  They are "sew simple", and even older kiddos could make them!

Here's what you'll need:

Fabric (this is a great chance to repurpose some old shirts, curtains, sheets, etc...!!)
Needle & thread
Small felt circle

Trace the bottom of a juice glass (or any round object, approximately 3 inches or so in diameter) onto your fabric 5-6 times, depending on the number of petals you would like for your flower. 

Cut around your traced circles, and then iron them flat. Don't worry if they aren't perfect, or even if there is a little ink along the edges. This project is very forgiving! YAY!

 Next, fold the circle in half and iron again...

And again until you have a nicely pressed 1/4 circle.

Continue the process until you have a nice pile of pressed 1/4 circles.

Next, thread your needle and make a running stitch, three or four stitches, along the bottom curve of one of the 1/4 circles of fabric. Don't worry if the stitches are perfect - you won't see them in the end!

Now, pull the thread tight to create your first petal! Wasn't that easy?! Before moving on to your next petal, go back and make one stitch through the base of your petal to secure its shape, as shown below.

Then, grab your next 1/4 circle and make a stitch through the first petal and into the new piece of fabric, securing them together. Continue by again making a few running stitches along the bottom of the new petal, pulling them tight, and then securing the petal.

Repeat the process until you have the number of desired petals for your flower ...

Finally, stitch the last petal to the first, securing your work!

You should now have a pretty flower, with an ugly mess of stitching in the middle.

Hide your work by adding a button to the center of the flower, and stitching it in place!

Affix (stitch or glue) a circle of felt to the back of your flower to cover the mess on the other side.

Voila! A super simple, very pretty fabric flower. You can attach them to a hairclip, headband, or even to other crafts like a homemade picture frame or canvas tote bag! I chose to stitch mine to some stretchy headbands. 

The girls love them! We are busy making headbands for all of the little girls in our lives, so if you happen to be the parent of one of my nieces, keep the secret, please!! :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Free Christmas Tip #2: CrowdTap

In continuing with our theme of having a FREE Christmas, I am going to tell you about another great way to earn Amazon gift cards and freebies!

CrowdTap is an awesome try and tell site. They work with national brands - Old Navy, Woolite, Verizon, and McCormick, to name a few - and provide you with discussion opportunities and product try and tells in exchange for freebies and points that earn you Amazon gift cards! They regularly launch new discussions and home party opportunities, and I am usually able to earn at least $10 in Amazon gift cards per month in addition to the great products that they send and allow me to keep.

I have been a member of CrowdTap since it was in the early days of its beta form, and over the past few years I have received hundreds of dollars worth of free merchandise and Amazon gift cards. With the Old Navy try and tells I received free jeans, shorts, dresses, outerwear, complete outfits - literally an entire wardrobe for FREE!!! This one is definitely worth the time and effort!

When you first sign up it is important to complete the available "quickhits" (short, one question surveys on the main page) so that the site can offer you discussions and product trials that you are qualified for.

Give CrowdTap a try today!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cookies for Breakfast?!

It's summertime, so indulging the fancies of the small folk has become a top priority. These "cookies" are an awesome way to add a little excitement to your kiddo's morning, and they will never know how healthy they are! These taste pretty similar to a Clif Bar in my opinion, and are super easy to freeze, as well as take along in the car on rushed mornings! I have tried several similar recipes, and combined them all to make this one!

What you'll need:

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (not the instant kind!)
1/3 cup flour (use whole wheat for extra nutrition!)
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup peanut or other nut butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups of add ins - raisins, dried cherries, unsweetened coconut, chocolate chips, etc ...

Add your walnuts to the bowl of your food processor and grind them until they resemble a dense flour.

 Once your nuts have been beaten to a pulp, combine the dust in a large bowl with the flour, flax meal, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix it up!

In the bowl of your food processor combine the nut butter, egg, applesauce, honey, sugar, and vanilla. Whip it good!

Stir that lovely mixture into your dry ingredients ...

 ... and then fold in your goodies! I used raisins, dried cherries, and some semisweet chocolate chips.

 Next, place balls of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I needed two, since this recipe makes about 20 cookies.

 Bake them in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. They will be slightly poofy when you remove them, and still a little doughy. While they are still warm, use a spatula to smoosh them!

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets. They will set up, and you will be left with a plate of cookies that look like this ...

YUM! Now you don't have to feel guilty about giving in when your kiddos ask for cookies at breakfast time!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Free Christmas Tip #1: In Home Product Testing!

As promised, this post is the first part of a series that will detail several ways to earn money and gift cards to defray your holiday costs!

I am a member of several incentive and rewards sites, but In Home Product Testing is probably my favorite. Just like the name suggests, their mission is to provide you (free of charge) with products that you test in your home, and then review for them. The best part? They PAY you to try new products in Target gift cards!! I have been a member of In Home Product Testing's panel for the last 3 years, and have earned hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards! Another perk is that you are almost always allowed to keep the extra products, which have included razors, baby bottles, and many household and personal care items.

The process is easy - they send out email questionnaires when they have a new study, and if your answers show that you are a part of their targeted audience they will accept you to try the products. You will then receive the product and further instructions in the mail, try them for a period of time, and then fill out surveys rating the products. I have never had to spend more than 5 minutes on one of their follow up surveys, so the time involved is very minimal.  In exchange you will be rewarded with a Target gift card - they have ranged from $10 - $25 for each study in my experience! That's it!

There is no referral program or any catch, so I encourage you to sign up on the website!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Free Christmas in July ...

When people find out that we have five kiddos they inevitably ask how we can afford to have a large family with the economy the way it is. The short answer is that I am a cheapskate, and that my husband supports my frugal nature. The long answer involves an intricate network of coupons, freebies, homemade necessities, and a whole lot of prayer.

In addition to being hopelessly devoted to saving money, I also find it necessary to plan for everything months in advance. Just like a boy scout I prefer to always be prepared. To that end, the beginning of July always signals the beginning of the home stretch ... towards Christmas. Knowing that I am nearly halfway to those first Christmas shipping deadlines, class parties, and family celebrations gets my mind working overtime.

Providing gifts for all five of our kiddos, extended family, teachers, and friends always seems like a dauntingly expensive task, but I have found ways to keep the out of pocket cost to a minimum while making sure that everyone receives a gift that they can enjoy. For the next several weeks I would love to start sharing some of my ideas and tactics with you, and would love to hear of any that you use in return!

This year I set two goals for my Christmas spending:

  1. Earn enough "money" (or gift cards, as it were) via rewards, product testing, and similar sites to pay for as many Christmas gifts as possible.
  2. Make as many gifts myself as I can, since homemade gifts cost more in love than money.
So far I have already saved up enough Amazon and Target gift cards to buy over half of the kiddos' gifts! I am so happy with the progress that we have made on our lists.  Starting tomorrow I will profile one site per week that allows you to earn gift cards, cash, or incentives that can help keep your holiday shopping costs down as well!

In addition, I will also be periodically posting ideas and projects that I am working on for homemade gifts. Again - please be sure to comment with your own tips, tricks, and ideas!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Giveaway Update & Summer Activity Ideas

Bummer! We didn't make it to 100 followers by Sunday evening!

In appreciation for the (current) 74 followers that I did get in less than a week, though, I am going to go ahead and give away ONE full sized Honest Company product! If you want to win, please comment below with your best idea for keeping kiddos occupied during summer vacation! Only the followers that leave a comment will be eligible to be randomly chosen to win, so be sure to do so! I will randomly choose the winner on Thursday evening! Good luck!

And .... GO!


BRETT JURGENS! Your name came out of the hat! Congrats! I will be contacting you so that I can deliver your prize!

Thanks again to everyone who left a comment - you all have great ideas!!