May 31, 2010

Summer Sanity Savers--Making the Best of Them

This is the fourth in a series of Summer Sanity Savers, resources for free or low cost education and entertainment for children and families.  I will attempt to post a couple a week till I cover all areas.  

Extending the Fun

Very often, a trip to the park or a walk around the neighborhood or a stroll through the woods can be enough to keep kids entertained and active for a few hours.  We scatter these kinds of activities in with our "field trips."  Some of the trips listed in the previous post can be turned easily into activities that get kids thinking, using art, science, math, and reading skills without even realizing it.

Here are some things that we do to make our trips more meaningful.

Before the trip:
  • Predicting.  This is a great critical thinking skill for children to practice.  Maybe you're going to the same park you've been to a million times, maybe you're trying out a new place for the first time.  Either way, you can teach or practice predicting skills on the way.  Walking/driving/riding bikes--it doesn't mater.  This can be as simple as asking the kids "What do you think you'll see?"  It can be as complex as having the kids pre-write in a journal predicting what will happen on their trip.
  • Pre-planning.  Why should you have all the fun?  Ask your helpers to pre-plan the trip.  What do you need to take (sunscreen, hats, bat and ball)?  What do you hope will happen along the way?  Shall we pack a picnic?  What do we need to wear, based on the weather?  What mode of transportation should we take?  Again, this can be a short discussion before you leave or a writing or drawing project days before.
During the trip:
  • Don't forget that the getting there can often be as fun as the final destination.  What can you do along the way to make it more fun?  
  • Scavenger hunts are great fun.  You can make a list of things that you think you might find along the way.  This can be done as another pre-activity by the kids, or you can make up a list of your own or find one on the internet.
  • Don't want anything that structured?  Give the children bags and tell them to try to collect 10 items along the way.  
  • I Spy--we play this a lot.  It's more of a visual scavenger hunt, where we try to point out things that we see.  We also sometimes do themes--birds, animals, flowers, specific colors.  Ask everyone to find the letter C on something, then move to something else once it's been found.
  • Notebooks can be fun tools for extending the fun.  My older one writes a little "journal" of her activities, the little one just draws or scribbles.  I buy up tons of notebooks in the clearance section after school starts, and Target has cute little notebooks in their dollar spot.
  • Another way to track your activities is with a digital or disposable camera.  Allow the kids to borrow yours if you're brave, or buy a tougher kids' version of a digital camera.  The photo quality doesn't have to be great, but it sure is fun for them.
Post Trip/Summary:
  • These activities are great for a winding down activity or even to be saved for a rainy day or sometime when you don't have anything else planned.
  • On the way home, ask "what was your favorite part?"  Ask some leading questions, have them summarize the trip for a parent who couldn't come along, or call or write a letter about it to a grandparent.
  • Make a photo book.  These can be done with a few pieces of scrap paper or notebook paper stapled together.  Kids can draw or write about the activity and what they learned, what was new to them, what was their favorite part.  You can also use some of the great photo deals that are posted in order to make hardbound photo books printed out for use later, small photo albums or "brag books", and there are even blank book forms you can draw or paste pictures into.  These can be independent projects for older kids, cooperative projects for groups, or something you do for them if they are too young to do it themselves.
  • This is one we really like.  We use photosensitve paper and place the found items on the paper, then place it outside for a few minutes (longer if it's cloudy). The resulting "art" takes up a lot less room than keeping all the rocks, leaves, and pine cones.  Below is an example of the kind of paper you can use.  You don't really need the frame they describe.

I hope this post can help with ideas to keep your children active, having fun, and learning all summer long.  Do you have a favorite activity?  I'd love to get more ideas from readers here.  (I am on a spare computer for a few days.  I have some photos of some of the photo scrapbooks we've made, but will not be able to add them in until I get my regular one back.)

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Busy Days

I'm hoping to get back to daily blogging soon. We've had a busy, fun and eventful couple of weeks, with just a few more days of craziness until school lets out for the summer. I am still working on the rest of the summer sanity savers, but hopefully the ones posted so far have been helpful.

I've added some new story times for Reiman Gardens and also all the Nevada Public Library summer special events into my calendar on the right side. I will be adding more as I get time.

This will be added into one of the sanity savers posts, but there is a great program geared towards getting kids out and moving, and I wanted to make a brief mention of it in the meantime. VERB (it's what you do) has a summer scorecard for children in Iowa, and I'm sure that there are similar programs in your state if you aren't a native.  Be sure to check out their events calendar for some great fun (most of the time FREE) summer activities.  Also, on their cool deals tab, there are discounts for some activities.  Some of the ones I saw right off the bat are 50 cents off admission to many local pools.

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May 25, 2010


Our internet cable met an unfortunate demise from our neighbor's lawnmower, but it's fixed and I'm back.

I'll be posting more tomorrow, but here are a few freebies to tide people over.
I guess I will stop there.

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May 22, 2010

My Book Closeouts Haul

 Perhaps I shouldn't get so excited about a giant pile of books, but my kids are thrilled as well.  I posted earlier about the huge educational book sale at Book Closeouts.  I placed an order, and just received it today.  I wanted to show just how much we got for right around $40 shipped.  Every item in that pile, even the 5 really high quality hard cover books in the upper left, was $1 or under.

This book about jobs in ancient Egypt was originally $16, marked down to 99 cents.  Click here to see the details about this book.

Another of our favorites has wedding traditions from all over the world.  It's another that is hard cover and was originally $16. 

The sale ends on Wednesday, May 26th, so get your order in while you can.  The link is in my earlier post or you can also click here to see their promo page.  Now that I have the flash cards, I'll be making them more usable and will post about that later in the week.

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75% off at Holland Farms!

This is a great sale on some plants that need to be put in in the spring. They are having a huge sale, but I've just linked to the 75% off items HERE.  You can use code STXTEN to get $10 off $60 through the end of May.

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May 21, 2010


I think I should come up with some clever title for the free posts, and just use that all the time.  I can't come up with one more thing to describe it, especially with it being Friday night and having spent an hour doing karaoke kid songs.  I have a few cool freebies to share, so here you go:
  • True lime/true lemon free samples.  I've gotten these before, and enjoyed them.  On their site, I see they now have true raspberry lemonade.  Yum.
  • Free horse treats.  I don't have one, so I didn't do it.
  • Clif bar samples!
  • Free printable Martha Stewart Grilling cookbook.
  • Aveeno samples
  • Locals, request a free Central Iowa Travel Guide HERE
Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Summer Sanity Savers--Where to Find Them

This is the third in a series of Summer Sanity Savers, resources for free or low cost education and entertainment for children and families.  I will attempt to post a couple a week till I cover all areas.  
For me, the best part of summer is all the great trips you can take.  Sure, there are grand, two week vacations in the Bahamas or going off to Disney World or the beach or a cabin in the woods.  Many times those are unattainable for many different reasons.

When I have the kids home for the summer, we often do 2-5 small "field trips" throughout the week.  These can be as simple as going to the library, park, or even a little nature hike around our neighborhood, or we can go as a family to a festival a tank of gas away.  I'm making this a more general focus, because I put up a lot of free local activities in my calendar on the right side of the blog.

Where to find your adventures
I used to travel for a living, visiting many large cities and small towns locally and throughout the country.  It's amazing to me when I meet a person from somewhere and mention that I love something in their town, only to hear that they have never heard of it.  One of the first things I do when I get to any city or town is find the Chamber of Commerce or visitor's center and start looking for something fun.  Nearly every town, regardless of size, has a museum or attraction of some sort.  You just have to know where to look.  Make it your mission to discover all that your own town has to offer.

Free or low-cost everyday activities:

  • Local city parks are free, fun entertainment.  Walk to the park, and you've extended your fun.  Pack a picnic snack or lunch.  Even the most basic lunch is more fun when you're eating it outside.  Some have free or low-cost wading pools for extending the fun even more.

  • State parks have more wildlife, and often swimming or fishing opportunities.  In many areas, Geocaching is really taking off.  We haven't tried this yet, but I am anxious to try it out this summer.  It combines some modern technology with hiking and exploring, and sounds like the perfect outdoor adventure.
  • Local farms are so much fun!  We have many small farms in the area that allow people to come and take tours.  I've posted before about three awesome small farms that do sample Sundays where they have free samples and fun activities for all ages.  Our local berry farm allows people to come in and pick their own fruits.
  • Zoos, petting zoos, and aquariums.  This doesn't have to be your giant metropolitan zoo to be fun.  Hand feeding a few goats or sheep can still be fun for young adventurers.

  • Local city or county museums can be great fun for children and adults alike.  Take a look around your own community and the ones surrounding it--I live in a town of 6000, and we have several museums.  I've been to smaller towns that have some incredible historical places.  Even better--most are either free or such a low cost as to be negligible.
  • Take a bus tour of your town.  If you have bus service, make a plan to get on the bus and ride somewhere with the kids, even if it's just to do some shopping or another necessary errand.
  • Go to the fire or police station.  Be sure to call ahead and ask, but many will take kids on an impromptu tour.  Join together with a few other families to make it more like a real field trip.
  • "Tour" a local pet store.  We have Earl May, and when I need anything for the garden we go and visit all the pets.  It's like a small, free zoo.  They even give the kids popcorn in some garden stores in our area.
  • Work on a garden.  Even if it's a small container garden on your porch, what better fun?  They get to dig in the dirt, play with a watering can, and watch something transform from day to day.

  • Tour a garden.  We have wonderful botanical gardens with indoor and outdoor facilities, perfect for rainy or sunny days.  Many cities have interesting gardens for tours.

  • Free bowling!  Even if your own local bowling alley isn't on the list of free ones HERE, a day of bowling is a pretty inexpensive outing.  Many places now have bumpers and automatic scoring, so all you have to concentrate on is having fun.  Call ahead and ask about what time they have leagues or free days.
  • Free movies!  Again, there are a few different places offering free movie days for kids.  You can look at Regal, AMC (but they're $1), or ask at your own local theater.  Also, I've posted about it before, but Family Video has free kids' movie rentals all the time.  Our library has free movie showings on certain nights, and your local library usually has movies that can be checked out. 
  • Roller skating or ice skating.  If you still have that sort of thing in your area, or just put on your own skates and skate around the park.
  • Community theater.  In our area, there is a children's theater group that does productions a few times a year.  It's very inexpensive admission, and very fun for everyone attending.  Come home and encourage the kids to put on their own production.  A few empty boxes and some markers make the sets, then raid the dress-up box or closets for costumes.
  • Small town fairs and festivals.  This is our absolute favorite thing to do.  We try to find at least one festival every weekend.  Most of these are free to enter, with lots of free activities.  Eating the fair food is a fun change for us, but you can also pack a picnic lunch for a free (except for the gas) fun day.  Where else could you watch people haul big cheese wheels or have tractor rodeos?
 Next post will be how to make the most of your experiences, preserve memories, and add some educational value to the fun.

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May 20, 2010

Thursday Deals

Some more deals from my inbox. It looks like there are a lot of great things going on right now.
  • Buy one, get one free photobook
  • 40% off purchase of $40 or more from!  Use code FORTY
  • 20% off at (through today only) with code happiness
  • 30% off anything at Ann Taylor Loft (starting Saturday) using code SAVE30
  • Free shipping (today only) at Body Shop using code SHIPFREE
  • Amazon has 3D?  Check it out at Amazon 3D
I'll be back with more later!

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Some Thursday Freebies

Another good batch of freebies!
  • Lanacane anti-chafing cream sample
  • Free sample of Camocare 
  • Free dog treat samples
  • Free samples of canker sore treatment
  • Another good Sephora freebie.  You have to go in the store to get it.
  • Free computer tool
  • This is another one of those great coupon books you can have sent to you monthly.  They're General Mills coupons, but it's in Spanish.

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May 19, 2010

Good Mail!

It's been a while since I've posted about my good mail (aka, freebies received).  I got two great freebies today, and of course the first thing I did was take a picture.  One was the awesome Kraft sample box, and the other was the Pantene freebie from Vocalpoint.  Both came with some great coupons to use.

So what free things have you been getting?  I'm going to be enjoying one of those Lattes tonight.

And, just because I found this in my mailbox too late to add it to the other post, here are $10 worth of laundry-type coupons.  This is one that will allow you to either print or request that they mail them to you, but they are good, high dollar coupons.  I just got a set in the mail last week, and here they are again.

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Sales and Coupons and Deals

Some good deals going on from my inbox.
  • Ann Taylor LOFT has an additional 40% off sale prices, free shipping if you spend over $125 (yeah, right) and 11% cash back if you go through Ebates.  This is a huge bargain!  Just as an example, THIS cute sweater is on sale for $14.98.  That brings the price down to $8.99, then you'd get almost $1 cash back at the same time. No codes needed.
  • What?  Lane Bryant has the same deal, only their sale is 40% off EVERYTHING.  Use code 000403696.
  • It must be sale day, because Victoria's Secret starts their Semi-annual sale today online!  Ship free over $100 if you use code SHIPVS10.
  • Woman Within has bras up to 70% off, and the sizes get up higher than I've ever seen.  Get free returns also with code WW44001.
  • The Mini Social has Plan Toys in their short sale starting today.  Many of the items are 50% off or more.  You can search my blog for more info on their site, but you have to be invited.  Click HERE for your personal invitation.
  • Leapfrog has 25% off sitewide and free shipping with code SAVE25 through 5/24.
I think I'll send this one for now, but I will return with more deals later.

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Kum & Go Coupon--5 cents a gallon!

Here's a nice little coupon that could help some of my local friends--get 5 cents off per gallon at the K&Gs in Nevada only.  If you sign up for their emails, I'm sure the coupons will work for your area as well.  Since it's good for the rest of the week, it may still work if you sign up now.

And I just saw a great coupon from Vesuvius Pizza, good for today only.  Get a free pizza!  Just print this page or show it on your mobile device. 

Free pizza and cheap gas, just one more reason to sign up for the email list at your favorite business.

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Summer Learning--Free Internet Resources

This is the second in a series of Summer Sanity Savers, resources for free or low cost eduaction and entertainment for children and families.  I will attempt to post a couple a week till I cover all areas.  

There are so many great educational resources available on the web, and I’ve gathered some of my favorites together in my bookmarks.  I guess it’s time to share these here for my friends.   Many can be used online, and many more have printable pages for use wherever or whenever you want.  While I realize this is a lot of information and a huge compilation of links, this should be all the pages you’ll need to keep any aged child having fun learning all summer long.

Letter Recognition
This blog has so many great ideas for teaching children about letter recognition.  It is much more fun than plain flash cards, and it offers hands –on activities, artistic endeavors, and so much fun that your little one might not notice she’s learning.

Letter Sounds/Phonics
Starfall is one of my favorite places to go.  Who needs to pay big money for Hooked on.. when you can go here for free?  The activities start off with simple letter recognition and move on to letter sounds and beginning reading.  They even have printable reward certificates and some fun games on the site.

Make your own puzzles, games, worksheets
This site allows you to create word searches, crossword puzzles, and board games based on your own choice of topics or learning area.  They also have an area to print out your own reward certificates, spelling words, and vocabulary sheets.
Print your own stickers, incentive charts, and stamp sheets here.
Another site for reward certificates.
Printable worksheets divided by grade level.
This site has lesson plans and worksheets divided by grade level.  It is a Christian site.

Online books
These sites allow children to read or have books read to them online. 
Sesame Street ebooks.
Some other book sites

Great general resource roundup
This site has a huge list of learning resources for every grade level.
Another great source for lesson plans in all subject matters can be found here.
Preschool activities here have printable worksheets and books for whatever pre-reading skills you want for your little one.

Science activities
There are many great resources for science information.  Two of our favorite books are Geology Rocks (she’s from Iowa!) and Kid Concoctions.  The Kid Concoctions page has a lot of resources, and you can also purchase your book directly from them.  They sell food coloring that doesn’t stain!

Get some great home science experiments to try out with your kids.  The great thing about science is that sometimes it looks like magic, sometimes it looks like messy fun, but it is always a learning opportunity.

Math activities
I love this page for practicing basic math skills and playing games with math.

Free printable coloring pages
There are lots of resources out there, depending on what interests your little ones.  The best way to find what you want is to search “free printable coloring sheet dinosaur” or whatever your favorite coloring subject.  This site has free ebooks, and also has whole coloring books that you can print out and staple together.
Free sheet music

Do you have a favorite site you'd like to add to the list?  Any requests for specific types of information?  I had a million links in my favorites, so I tried to pare it down to just one or two favorites in each category.  

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May 18, 2010

Casey's Pizza Coupons

Buy a large specialty pizza (taco is my favorite, what's yours?) and get a free medium one topping.  This coupon is good through May 31, but it looks like you can sign up to be on their email list to get more coupons.  Even better, if you're a golf fan, our large pizza had a coupon for a free ticket to the Principal Charity Golf Classic  Now that I've gone to their site, I see all kids 15 and under get in free as well.

(print using the link above, this is just a pretty picture I borrowed.)

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May 17, 2010

Freebies and Deals

Just a few links here for some things I've found.  I have been working on the sanity savers posts and it takes a little more brain power than I have to give right now.  Nap time is over, and I still have these links up, so here goes:
  • Free Einstein Brothers bagels
  • Deodorant coupons
  • Free Palmer's lotion sample
  • Sims3 is 1/3 off today only

  • Free MP3 download of the day, Rolling Stones!

  • Kind of a confusing deal, but Amazon has two different styles of Altec headphones on sale.  If you buy one of each, you get an additional 20% off.  Originally $139.93 (according to Amazon, anyway), the two together are just over $20.

Post # 200! Summer Sanity Savers Series

This is my 200th blog post, or at least the 200th one that is still on my post list.  I have been working on a series of posts I'm going to call the Summer Sanity Series, full of good free or low cost ideas for keeping your children occupied and learning over the summer.

I intend to touch on many aspects over the next week, in amidst the bargains and freebies:
  • Educational opportunities, including reading, math, and science.
  • Places to go.
  • Things to do.
  • Yes, it's vague, but I do have a plan...
Summer Reading Activities
While I'm not a fan of regimented learning programs for kids over the summer, it's important to keep their brains engaged to they don't slide back so far along their learning path.  Since reading is most near and dear to my heart, I'm starting here with the first post.

Maybe you have a child who hates to read, maybe one who needs some improvement in basic reading skills, maybe your child reads everything in sight.  Whether you need a motivator or a reward, there are a ton of great ways to keep your children reading over the summer.  Most are free, some even offer freebies for you and your children.  Not only that, but they are fun ways to get out of the house and DO something.  What could be better?

The focus here will be local for me, but I am also trying to provide some nationally-based programs for the non-local readers.  As always, a quick google (or swagbucks ;) ) search will find similar programs in your area if these aren't local to you.
Public Library
  • First, the Ames Public Library summer reading program.  They have TONS of reading groups for all age groups from birth up through high school, and they offer them several times a week so they will be sure to fit into your schedule.  Our family favorite last summer was the family craft story time.  It is made to be a little more multi-age, so you can take several siblings together.  It's an hour long, which includes stories, songs, dances, and a make-and-take craft.
  • The Nevada Public Library, while much smaller, has some great activities geared a little more toward the school-aged set.  These usually involve magic shows, science demonstrations, etc.   It looks like they are continuing the activities on Wednesday afternoons.  There are also some age-based story times listed.
  • Obviously, your own library will have something similar.  Just looking around during my research, I found many fun and interesting themes and incentive programs.  Both of our local libraries offer summer reading programs where children are rewarded for reading a certain number of books or attending library programs.  

National Programs 

If you are very isolated or don't have time to make it to the library, there are still many reading incentive programs available to help you encourage your children to continue reading over the summer.
  • Borders has their Double Dog Dare program.  Read and document 10 books, and get another book free!  Last summer, they also had some story times available for children.
  • Barnes and Noble is also offering a great summer reading program!  With B&N, kids read 8 books and get one free, but it looks like they have to do a small review on the book.  That's ok!  It's an opportunity for your child to work on their hand writing and reading comprehension at the same time.  There are also free resources for you to download and print to use.
  • Scholastic also is offering a great summer program.  They have separate sections for kids, parents, and educators.  If you are "only" a parent, still take some time to peruse the educator section to get some great ideas.
  • Half Price Books also has a program, where children can qualify for a $3 gift card per week if they read for 15 minutes per day.
On Your Own

Are you wanting to do it all on your own in your house?  There are still many great resources available to you, and most are free or very low cost.
  • This page is through the New York Public Library system, but there were so many great resources that I thought it should be posted.
  • The CSLP offers more great resources for parents, kids, and educators.  Browse around the site to find the information that is relevant to you.
  • This page looks to be a more commercial site, but they have tons of free resources available.  Just clicking around, I found some great information and advice, along with printable activities and reward charts.
  • Finally, if you missed my post earlier about the educational materials sale on BookCloseouts.  Everything here is under 99 cents, and there are many great items available for purchase.  If you're not keen on online shopping, Dollar Tree is a surprising resource for inexpensive educational materials.  If you've never been to one, check it out some time.  They have great items like charts, workbooks, and flash cards, and everything is $1!
I hope that this series of posts provides some useful information to save your sanity this summer.  This is the first, but I hope to be able to release a couple per week as the school year winds down.  I will tag (meaning the little words at the bottom of each post) each one SSSS.  On the right side of my blog is what is called a "Tag cloud."  This has all the keywords I've tagged posts with, so you can always click on one of the words in the tag cloud to find more of the type of posts you like.  Be sure to click "more old posts" to read all of the posts on the topic.

Thank you to everyone who ups my stats page, clicks the ads, and comments.  All of those things encourage me to keep blogging, and I really enjoy being able to share the information with others.

May 16, 2010

Freebies and Coupons

  • Just answer one question on this short survey and get a free sample of South Beach Living S'mores bar.
  • Get a $1 coupon from Morningstar Farms.
  • Free Kotex sample pack 

Sunday Morning Freebies

Lots of other things that I need to be doing right now, so of course I went out in search of freebies for you!
  • Shirley J sauce sample, use code SJUSS
  • Free Bruegger's bagel and cream cheese
  • Free sunglasses cleaning cloth
  • I don't know who Evan Taubenfeld is, but if you do, you may want a sticker
  • Freebie for summer reading
  • Free Shipping at JCPenney with code 4MAYDAY
Be sure to check out all the other freebie posts, or whatever else interests you.  This is probably my only post for the day.

May 15, 2010

So Much Fun!

There are so many great places to go in the calendar on the right.  We're going to attempt to stack a few together to maximize the (free) fun.  Hope everyone has a great Saturday!  No new posts from me today, but I've done lots of great freebies and deals throughout the week.  Use this time to catch up on all the old things.

May 14, 2010

Friday (or weekend) Deals

Here are some good deals I see coming up or available right now.
  • Old Navy has 25% off $100 or more through May 19 with code ONGET25 (use ebates for 11% cashback!)
  • Ann Taylor LOFT has 30% off sale items with code SALE30.  (also in the 11% off at ebates)
  • Staples has some good stuff coming up in their weekend ad, so starting on Sunday.  They have $2 reams of paper AND if you spend $40 in any combination of reams or cases of paper, get $25 Staples Rewards.  Looks like there is also an instant $50 rebate with any printer, and 20% Staples Rewards on toner.  There are really good printable coupons on page 10 of the ad.
  • Borders coupon
  • Some good coupons for the Incredible Pizza Company.  We love this place--so much better than Chuck E. Cheese.  They have gift certificates available at, and they always have email deals.  Join their VIP Club to get them mailed to you.  They also have 3 for $5 on the rides with any combo purchase.

Ebates 11% Cash Back!

That's like getting an automatic 11% discount on your online orders PLUS you can still use any coupon codes you might have.  I've written about Ebates before, so you can read a full description on that post, but Ebates is a shopping portal that gives you cash back for online purchases.  If you're going to shop online, definitely use one of the shopping portals (MyPoints, Swagbucks) to earn for your activity.

Normally I shop around the three sites to see which will give me the best deal, but I guarantee 11% $CASH$ back is going to be the best deal for these stores involved in the promo:
  • Macy's
  • Ebags
  • Gap
  • Old Navy
  • Sephora
  • Shutterfly
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Shoe Buy
For the full list, go to Ebates and see for yourself.   They usually also round up coupons for you to use while shopping, so it saves having to search for those as well.  Did I mention that they're also giving people $5 to join?  This is also part of their birthday celebration.

Tropicana Free Rewards Today Only

If you aren't doing this reward program already, try it out.  They have codes on all their products, you enter the codes and get rewards.  Most of these items look to be the type of thing you can get from the Entertainment Book for your area.  There are some really great coupons for BOGO meals and museum entrance, and I've been able to find tons of reward point just from searching around the blogosphere.

Today only, they are offering 1 free reward, no points necessary.  Some of the things I found for the central Iowa area include 2-for-1 admission at Living History Farms and the Blank Park Zoo, which would get you into the festival I posted about yesterday much cheaper.  There's nothing to lose here, just log in and get your freebie, or register today to get started.


May 13, 2010

Book Closeouts Educational Blowout

Book Closeouts is a great site for finding lots of bargain books, but what impresses me the most is their educational materials for children.  I just put in a huge order to keep my kids busy and learning throughout the summer months.  Right now, they have a TON of books, workbooks, flashca, and charts and stickers of all kinds for 99 cents each.  Most of these items are upwards of 75% off. 

The sale ends May 26, so get to it while you can.  A reader reported that the links may not have been working correctly, so I just changed it.  You should be able to link to the sale page by clicking on the book picture below.  Once you arrive at that page, there is a section labeled 99 cent children's books, and that will get you to the cheapies.  (OVER 157) -Blow-Out Prices On All Your Favorite Books!

Take a look!  There is a shipping charge, but the huge discount outweighs that.  I'll try to pretty the post up with some pictures later, and be on the lookout for my post about how to get the best use from flashcards as soon as I get my new ones.

Weekend Events

I just got an email from the Blank Park Zoo for a really interesting event.  It's free with your paid zoo admission or for members.

Feast in the Wild  
Feast in the Wild LogoJoin the Blank Park Zoo in celebrating food at Feast in the Wild this Saturday at the Zoo. Enjoy food from restaurants like Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, Okoboji Grill, La Hacienda, Brick's Cafe, Gateway Market, Kabob House, Mustards, Tropical Sno, Bennigan's and Corny Island Concessions. Plus music from Douglas Acres, Rudy York and Matt Woods and the Thunderbolts.

Plus, you'll enjoy chef demonstrations, ice sculptures and kids' inflatable bounce houses.

Admission: Free with regular paid Zoo admission, free for members
Hours: 10am - 9pm
Saturday, May 15

CelebrAsian (Asian heritage festival) is going on this weekend on the Capitol Grounds.  We've gone several years in a row, and it is good food and good fun.  It's free admission, check out the details HERE.  Also, remember to keep checking my calendar on the right side.  I don't always mention everything that is going on, but I try to get them all over there.  Email, Facebook, or comment here if you know of events I'm missing.

Tassel Ridge Winery is having their open house as well on Saturday, and it looks like a great time.  Maybe you could make a day of it and hit all three events. 

Thursday Freebies

Since my readers preferred freebies over everything else when I did a poll a while back, here are a few more recent freebies from the web.  I'm going to touch on a few more gardening posts and some stockpile/once a month cooking things over the next few days.  I'd love to do some requests if people comment with anything they'd like to read more about.  Just let me know what you want.

On with the freebies:
  • Free baby blanket?  I tend to be skeptical of this type of freebie, but it's worth a shot.  Use your junk email, because I'd think this is just an info gathering tool.
  • Free full size Suave shampoo.
  • Or you can try this link from Facebook, or try both of them.
  • Free vegetable garden guide from Burpee.
  • Free Mom bumper sticker.
  • Free home decorating guide.
  • Register to win a bigger thing, get a virtual jumprope for Wii.  Minnesota and Wisconsin only!

Thursday Deals

Amazon has some hot deals, some for today only, so this post will be all Amazon.
  • Photoshop Elements 8, $34.99 after rebate for today only!  This is $85-$95 everywhere else on the web, so it's a GREAT deal.  

  • Today, Free MP3 song of the day (they seem to have one every day in May, so keep checking back) is These Foolish Things by Stan Getz.  This is my favorite genre of music, so I know I've been excited about all the Jazz/Standards.
  • Also a whole free album--Native Flute for Relaxation for free download.  There are many other free downloads, so browse around.
  • Found another one!  Buy any 2 pairs of select shoes, get 20% off, with Buy 2 get 20%  Looks like there are hundreds of pairs of great name brand shoes included in the deal.  I'll post a few of my favorites.  Just remember that the only ones included in the sale are from Amazon.  If you spend $25, you'll get free shipping, or always free with Amazon prime.  I posted a couple of links to get a free trial to prime recently. 

    We'll stop there for now, and I'll be back later with more.  Keep checking back.

    May 11, 2010


    Lucky for my readers, it's a rainy day and I have nothing better to do.
    • Free Christian book.  Looks like they offer new ones all the time.
    • Free child safety tattoos.
    • Free stuff from Jose Cuervo (he is a friend of mine...)  It appears that you can enter once a week and choose your freebie, but there are none left right now.  Bookmark it for later.
    • Free Disney song download every day. (I can't find it, either.  If you do, tell me how)
    • Free can of Libby's fruits or veggies.
    • Free bacon salt.  Look for the email address on this page.
    • Thumb socks to prevent texting while driving.
    • Free undies at Lane Bryant.  No coupon necessary, but the details are on this page.
    Enjoy, and go back and check out the other posts.

    Tuesday Deals

    'I've found a few deals around throughout cyberspace to share today.
    • Daily deal on Amazon, get the whole box set of Gilmore Girls in a cute box with lots of extras for $99.  The regular price on this is $258.82, so this is a really good deal--today only.
    • These magazines would be a great deal for Father's Day.   Note that the prices below are for two years.  You can go under "Manage my subscriptions" to send a gift card notice of the subscription.

    • Get ESPN magazine for only $5 for a year.  Just remember to go in and click off the auto-renew option after you order.

    • This looks like a great deal from Yves Rocher.  Purchase just $20 worth of products, and get 15 free samples AND free shipping.  Use code BEAUTY15  You can go through My Points and get up to 1250 points for your order.  That's the equivalent of about a $10 gift card.  I'm not sure if their own FREE gifts offer will also apply, but this could get really good if so.
    • That awesome Kraft freebie I've posted is still available through the end of the day today, so give it a try.  Looks like several good free products, and you'll get coupons as well.
    • Through the Deal of the Day tracker, I've found a bunch of good deals over the year.  Today there are a couple of note.  Sign Language immersion CDROM, Golf bag clock for 2.99, and Men's Health  magazine for 2.99 (use coupon code fitness) are three good deals, but there are many others.
    As always, I'll be back with more.

    Saving Money on Cleaning Products

    As I was picking up 4 gallons of vinegar (it was on sale and I had coupons) I thought I should start working on a post about all the many uses for vinegar and how a gallon jug of plain white vinegar can save you money and also help you to be a little more green in your home.  I'll start with how I use vinegar in my house, then I've also got a great link with a million other uses.

    • Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into each load of laundry.  This brightens clothes, reduces mystery odors, and can also replace your fabric softener.  
    • Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into your empty dishwasher, then run it empty to clean out any soap buildup or food residue.  
    • Because I can't bring myself to run the dishwasher with nothing in it, I just use vinegar in every load.  This can replace the rinse aid.  We have really hard water, so vinegar really cuts down on the soap buildup on clothes and dishes.
    • Wash your floors with a mixture of warm water and vinegar (1 cup to 1 gallon of water).  
    • Use vinegar instead of harsh carpet shampoo in your carpet cleaner.
    • Use vinegar and water (50/50) in a spray bottle to clean windows.
    • Run vinegar down your garbage disposal with some ice cubes to clean the blades.
    • Clean your coffee maker by running through a pot of vinegar.
    • Clean your microwave by boiling a bowl filled with (3/1) water and vinegar.
    • A dish of vinegar will reduce kitchen odors or smoke odors in a house.  (Sometimes Apple Cider vinegar will work a little better than white vinegar.)
    • A dish of vinegar with a few drops of dish soap will attract and catch drain/fruit flies.
    • Shower spray!  Use about 1/2 cup with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle to cut down on soap residue.
    • Clean the toilet using about 1 cup of vinegar and 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda.  Allow to foam up, then sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.
    Those are all the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I can share the link I found with tons of helpful hints.  I've heard that vinegar is really good at killing weeds.  What is your favorite use for vinegar?

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    May 10, 2010

    Veria Incense Sample

    Take a survey at Veria, and get a free sample incense kit.  Looks pretty cool.

    Their front page has a little slide show, and the survey is one of the slides, so if it isn't on their homepage right then, wait till it comes up.

    Quick Freebie and Coupon Post

    I did post another post with coupons and freebies this weekend, but I have two really great ones to share now.  If you signed up to receive the Mambo Sprouts coupon book (they have tons of good coupons for organic food products) you can also print the coupons HERE.  This will give you potentially 2 per computer plus the ones they will mail out.  It's a great way to buy healthy foods while still staying in your food budget.

    Also, Kraft had a freebie package late last week.  You have to "like" them on Facebook, then go to the savings tab on their page to select your sample pack.  It looks like a terrific freebie, and they just posted that they are still giving the packs away.  Get on it quick, I can't believe it's still available.

    If you want to share this with other people, just click on the share button at the bottom of this post.  Also, look back through some of the older freebie posts for good free items.  Some remain available for a while, some expire quickly, but it never hurts to check.

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    May 9, 2010

    Freebies and Coupons

    A few more good freebies and coupons:
    • Free Dove Hair care
    • Sam's club Bounty freebie
    • Free Cheez-it coupon (looks like you can choose how many times you want to print it.)
    • Three free Newman's Own coupons
    • Free cologne sample
    • Free Nivea sample
    • Free sample of L'oreal shampoo

    May 8, 2010

    Saturday 60's and 70's TV on DVD

    I love all of these, and can imagine some would be great gifts for the right people.  These are all 62% off, and for today only.

    We're off to freeze at the Tulip Festival.  Hope everyone has a great weekend.

    May 7, 2010

    Great Carseat Deal!

    This car seat is one of the best brands, and the price is the best I've seen in a long time.  You can use this one from 20-100 lbs, up to 65 lbs harnessed and then as a high back booster.  It's a plush and comfy seat and will be a great seat.  It won't last at $139 for long, so get it while you can.

    More Great Sales

    Here are a few more great deals from my inbox:
    • Woman Within is having a sale, with $5, $10, and $15 items.  They also have a page where if you buy a certain item, you get a certain free item.  Check it out.  Also, I am able to send out $25 off $50 coupons, but would have to have your email.  If you're friendly with me and know my email or FB page, let me know you want one. 
    • NY&Co. is having a huge Mother's Day sale with 50% off EVERYTHING.  You can get free shipping when you spend over $85 with promo code 2630.
    • Bath & Body Works has a great gift bag, but looks like it's an in store only deal.  Get a $100 value bag (10 free full size products) for only $20 with $40 purchase.  This $10 off $30 coupon should help defray the cost.
    • Here's a coupon for buy one get one free Off Clip on.  You might have to be registered with Bzzagent to get it, but I love Bzzagent and it's free to register.
    • Here's a coupon for one free Snikiddy product.  I don't know where to buy them, but I'm sure the site will tell more about that.
    • Toys R Us has great deals in this weekend's ad.  This link (will probably have to enter your own zip code) has a ton of printable coupons for them. 
    • Looks like Babies R Us is doing the same kind of ad, so HERE are their printables.
    • Get 15% off $75 or 20% off $100 at Old Navy with code ONSAVEBIG
    • Origins is giving two free samples with any order.  You choose from 4 different options.
    Again, there should be more to come.  Enjoy, and pass it along to your friends if you'd like.

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    Freebie Friday!

    I have found a few good ones to share:
    • Free Pampers points, just received in a free coupon book I just got in the mail.  GETSTARTEDNOW10 for 10 points.  Sign up to get their mailers while you are there, because I just got some terrific coupons in their May coupon book, including a $3.50 off diapers and wipes coupon that can be stacked with a $3.00 off coupon from TRU in the same book. 
    • Free coupon books!  Go to Mambo Sprouts for a monthly book with recipes and tons of coupons for organic products.
    • Sign up at Rouge Mag and get a monthly coupon book with really great beauty product coupons!
    • Have your child read some books, and they can receive a FREE children's book at Borders!
    • Get a free pedometer
    • Vocalpoint offers a cool free sample pack of Pampers.  You'll have to be a member, but there are awesome coupons and freebies to be had from Vocalpoint.
    Will be back later with more great deals as I weed through my inbox.

    Fun Friday!

    There are some great deals around the internet today, so I thought I'd share a few I've found.
    • Don't forget that Fridays are MegaBucks Friday at Swagbucks.  I see a lot of people on my friends' list making 30-50 on searches (no such luck for me yet)
    • Amazon has some great deals going on.  Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Seasons 1-5 , Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seasons 1-5 and Scrubs: The Complete Seasons 1-8 are today's deal for TV on DVD.  They're all over 50% off, so grab them while you can.  Remember that if you go to the main page for the DVD deals and add one to your cart, you can get offered a free month of Amazon Prime.  Just go in and cancel auto-enroll to keep from being charged when the month is up.  You also do not have to actually buy them, this is just the way to get into the trial.
    •  Don't forget to check out the Friday Sale
    • Today there is a huge Friday TOY Sale which isn't common on the Friday sales, so be sure to check out the toy deals for today only.
    That's all I have time for right now, but read back and see if you've missed anything during the week on here.  I've been trying to do a lot more posts each day, and there are a lot of good freebies I've posted so far this week.

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      May 5, 2010

      Low Cost Substitutions--Foods

      I've been working on this post off and on for a while, and it's time to put it to bed.  Some convenience foods are really nice to have for recipes in a pinch or a quick snack, but so often they are not only higher priced but bad for you.

      Cream of Chicken Soup
      Case in point-cream of (whatever) soup.  It's high in sodium and usually also has MSG in it.  If you want to make some tuna noodle casserole, the ultimate comfort food, you can use a can or two of cream of mushroom soup, spend some time making your own roux.  I like to use this recipe.
      9 cans of cream soup (change servings and units)



      1. Mix all the ingredients together.
      2. Store in an airtight container.
      3. For the equivalent of 1 can of cream soup, mix 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water. Cook in sauce pan until thick.
      4. Entire recipe makes the equivalent of nine cans of cream soup.

      The best part about this is that you can adjust it to your liking by changing the flavor of boullion you use.  The recipe makes the equivalent of 9 cans of soup, and it's very inexpensive.  My helpful hint for the day is this: don't use 1 1/4 cups of water and then wait for it to cook down.  Use more like 3/4 cup of water and it will thicken much faster.

      Microwave Popcorn
      Next up, the ever popular microwave popcorn.  Filled with transfats, too much sodium, and more fat and calories than you can shake a stick at, it just isn't worth it for a snack.  It's convenient, though, and much easier than some of the more traditional methods for making popcorn.

      Did you know that you can make your own microwave popcorn with a plain brown lunch bag?  Use about 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels, then salt or the seasonings of your choice.  You can put a little oil or butter in the bag with it, but you don't even have to do that.  Fold the top of the bag down and cook it just the same way you would any bag of microwave popcorn.

      For some other really great ideas, including a milkshake that doesn't use ice cream, head over to Hillbilly Housewife.  She has some great ideas, so be sure to look around the site while you're there.

      I decided to split this up, and will have some low cost cleaning alternatives in a later post.  Keep checking back!

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