From the category archives:

living on less

Disclosure: Sponsored by Mirum Shopper, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

Christmas break started yesterday for my kids, and not even five minutes into it, I found myself staring into a gaping hole in the wall. I wish I could say I'm joking... But sadly it's true!

It was pretty apparent that I was going to have to find a variety of activities to keep them all out of trouble -- aside from learning how to patch and paint a wall, of course. So my oldest and I made a quick trip to Meijer this morning to grab all of the ingredients for a simple sugar cookie recipe I saw the other day.

As a bit of an afterthought, I also grabbed a container of red, green and white holiday nonpareils, thinking they might enjoy turning the recipe into funfetti-style cookies. Good call on my part! My girls, especially, were thrilled with the idea and eager to start baking.

I think my favorite part of this recipe is that it starts with Country Crock Spread, instead of butter. It means that when my girls get the urge to do some baking, they can get started right away, instead of waiting (and waiting) for a stick of butter to soften sufficiently. This sugar cookie dough is very soft and stirrable, the perfect consistency for kids that are still getting acquainted with the kitchen.

It's actually a great base recipe for mixing in all kinds of ingredients -- toasted nuts, chocolate chips, crushed peppermint, candy-coated chocolates, and on and on.

As I mentioned, we decided to turn it into holiday funfetti cookies with a 7.5-oz. container of holiday-colored nonpareils sprinkles. I reserved about two tablespoons for decorating and folded the remaining contents of the container into the soft sugar cookie batter.

Didn't they turn out so cute?! A few tips for ensuring these holiday funfetti sugar cookies turn out their best:

  • Gently fold the sprinkles into the batter and try not to overwork it. Once the sprinkles are mixed into the batter, they can have the tendency to bleed. So stir and then just leave it alone other than to scoop out each cookie.
  • Use a cookie scoop to portion out the batter. We used a small 1-tablespoon scoop, which consistently produced perfectly sized cookies with no fuss or mess.
  • Make sure to reserve a couple of tablespoons of the nonpareils to sprinkle on top of each cookie before baking. It allows you to skip the step of frosting them after baking, allowing you to get right down to eating them!

Holiday Funfetti Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Country Crock Spread
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 (7.5-oz.) container holiday-colored nonpareils, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Mix Country Crock, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, egg, egg yolk and vanilla in large bowl until well mixed. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until blended. The dough will be soft and creamy.
  3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the nonpareils. Gently fold the remaining nonpareils into the dough, taking care not to over mix.
  4. Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets leaving about 3 inches on all side of each cookie.
  5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges are lightly golden. Cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet; then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Stock up on the ingredients to make these easy cookies yourself at Meijer. Check the mPerks app for additional savings, including a Buy One Get One FREE Country Crock Spread (15-oz.+) coupon!

Deal Idea:

Country Crock (22.5-oz. bonus size), $2.19
B1G1 FREE Country Crock Spread mPerks coupon
$1.10 ea. after coupon!

What other ingredients would you incorporate into this easy sugar cookie mix to make it your own?

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It's been awhile since I've done a shopping trip at ALDI -- my closest store is not in a super convenient location. But I just have to say how totally impressed I was at the current selection of products!

Since I've been there last, they're really increased their SimplyNature organic line. I stocked up on their organic creamy peanut butter, wildflower honey, and baby spinach, to name a few. I also noticed that they had a wide variety of organic spices available at amazingly low prices. I passed them by, since I'm stocked up currently, but I'll definitely be back for those!

Oh, I also grabbed several boxes of their award-winning SimplyNature Organic Macaroni and Cheese. It recently received the coveted Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal of Approval that's only given to the highest rated products in the PTPA testing community.

Boxed macaroni and cheese is a special treat in our house, and to find an organic variety priced at just $1.29 per box is unheard of. I figured it would be the perfect way to send my kids off to trick or treat with their friends! As an afterthought, I also grabbed a can of extra large black olives to create a spooky spider on top.

Or maybe not so spooky... How cute is this little guy? I simply cut one of the olives in half for the body and sliced up a couple more halves for the legs. Most of my kids aren't big fans of olives, but they flipped over my Halloween-ified mac and cheese -- and the olives are simple to just pick off the top for those that don't like them.

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of ALDI; all opinions and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but we're pretty vigilant about making sure our our kids are not bothering others with their technology devices. Headphones are a requirement when we're out and about, especially if we're dining out and they're using their devices before our meal arrives.

But headphone head is the worst. You know what I mean, right? That telltale line of flattened hair on top of their head and the rings around each ear. It seems to affect my youngest son the most, so I've been on the hunt for a pair of wireless earbuds for him to use in lieu of traditional headphones.

And while wireless earbuds are pretty common, I've found that most of them, including the pair I originally bought for my son, have a volume control module built into the cord on one side. This module adds extra weight that was constantly pulling the earbud out of his ear on that side -- super frustrating!

So when iFrogz contacted me about trying out a pair of their new wireless earbuds that feature a wireless hub that magnetically clips to your shirt collar, I jumped on the opportunity, hoping that this was the solution to our wireless earbud problem. They sent me a pair of Summit wireless earbuds for my son to try -- and I have to say, they are totally great!

Connecting the Summit wireless earbuds to his tablet was a breeze, and the clip-on module has totally eliminated the problem of my son's earbuds falling out of his ears. Once we figured out which size ear tips provided the best fit, it was smooth sailing. The secure-fit wing is an added measure to keep them in place.

Priced at just $34.99, these are an excellent value, and I'd totally recommend them! In fact, his brothers and sisters are pretty jealous, so I'll be picking up several more pairs as Christmas gifts this year.

iFrogz Summit Wireless Earbuds, $34.99

  • Designed with an active lifestyle in mind with IPX2 sweat-resistance
  • A soft, secure-fit wing nestles in the curve of your ears to keep your earbuds in place no matter the activity
  • 8mm drivers deliver crisp, clear sound
  • Three sizes of ear tips ensure you find the perfect fit

This post is in partnership with iFrogz. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site possible!

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A week-and-a-half ago, she turned 12... Wasn't it just yesterday that I watched her toddle on chubby little legs after a shiny pink soccer ball, blond curls streaming behind her?

Time changes everything, some things more than others. She still chases after a pink soccer ball, but she's much more sure on her feet these days, with a talent for spot-on passes into tight spaces. Same blond hair, not so chubby legs...

She left the house this morning a middle schooler, and I'm still processing how I feel about that. She also asked me to buy her a razor and shave gel the other day, and that REALLY took me by surprise. My baby girl is growing up before my eyes -- I knew it was coming, but I still feel completely unprepared.

Earlier this week, we did a little back to school shopping at Walmart. In case you're wondering, yes, I did buy her the razor and shave gel she requested... And we also picked up a few new pieces of clothing.

I was pleasantly surprised at her choices: a navy layering cami, a cute striped swingy tank, a graphic owl print tee, and a pair of dark rinse skinny jeans. This is a girl who lives in her soccer gear and refused to wear jeans at all last year. I joke about picking up most of her wardrobe from the vendors at soccer tournaments, but I'm really NOT joking.

So the fact that she was willing to look at clothing beyond a tie-dyed soccer tee tells me that maybe she's maturing a bit. Or maybe not, lol...

Either way, I was very impressed with the juniors selection at Walmart. She's in kind of that in between stage -- she can wear 14s and 16s in girls sizes, but most of them are a little juvenile for her. Extra small and small juniors tops fit fine, but leggings and jeans are often too long.

We did opt for a pair of No Boundaries skinny jeans in a size one, and they fit really well. They're a little long, but she was fine with rolling them, and I'm hoping they'll shrink a bit when I wash them. You really can't go wrong with these at just $7.78 per pair! They're great quality and super comfortable.

All told, we spent under $23 on these four items -- which is a total steal in my book!

Quick Purchase Links:

Walmart Moms Disclosure

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In just 8 days, my kids' summer break will come to an end and they'll head back to school. Summer just flew by way too quickly... I'm embarrassed to say we haven't even begun our back to school shopping, yet, and I am NOT looking forward to the dent it's going to put in our already-stretched-thin budget.

Thankfully, I've got more than a few years of back to school shopping under my belt, so I've learned some pretty good strategies for saving money along the way. I'm guessing many of you could use a little help stretching your Back to School budgets, so I thought I'd share my tried and true tactics, starting with the all-important prep work!

Prep Before You Shop

  • Make a list -- If you create a list and stick to it, you're going to ensure that you get everything you need in one trip. This is especially helpful if you have several students, as I do. Combine all of their lists into one master list, and you'll save yourself a huge headache.
  • Take inventory -- Every year my kids come home at the end of the school year with bags of unused glue sticks, pencils, erasers, scissors, etc. Don't let these items go to waste; take them into consideration when making your list for this year. Likely you'll find many of these items listed once again.
  • Do your homework -- Gather up those current sales ads and see what the prices are like this week so you can plan your trip accordingly.

How To Shop In Store For Back To School

If you prefer to shop in stores, these tips are for you. But by all means, do the prep work above first to get the most for your money!

  • Buy discounted gift cards before you go -- Once you've decided where to shop, check a site like Raise.com to purchase gift cards for that store at significant savings. Save even more by using the referral code dseeking during registration to receive a $5 credit, and use SAVE5 when checking out for another $5 off a $25 purchase. That's a total of $10 in FREE cash toward your supplies, plus the savings from the discount gift card!
  • Save on gas -- Utilize price matching so you're not running all over town. Carry all of your ads into a store and have that store meet the advertised prices.
  • Don't forget your coupons -- More and more schools are asking parents to supply classroom items outside the traditional school supplies. Items on our list include things like hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, Kleenex, and Ziploc Bags. You'll find coupons available for all of these items in the Deal Seeking Mom Coupon Database.
  • Save your receipts -- Many stores will refund the difference if the price of an item you purchased drops within 14 days. Keep the receipts in an envelope in your purse, so you have them handy if you notice a markdown or sale at a later date.

How To Shop Online For Back To School

Just don't feel like fighting the crowds this year? I can't say that I blame you. Luckily, now is a better time than ever to consider shopping online for school supplies and clothing! Let me show you how to save big using a $50 online Kmart purchase as an example.

  • Buy discounted gift cards before you go -- As I mentioned before, checking a site like Raise.com to purchase gift cards can yield significant savings. Save even more by using the referral code dseeking when creating your account to receive a $5 credit, and use SAVE5 when checking out for another $5 off a $25 purchase.
     
    Right now, you can purchase Kmart gift cards for use in stores or online up to 4.2% off. So using a $50 Kmart gift card priced at 4% off as an example, you can purchase it for as low as $38 if you use the referral code and promo code above, cutting $12 off your purchase right from the start!
  • Shop through a cashback site -- Start off your purchase by shopping through your favorite cash back site. For Kmart, in particular, you can earn up to 6% cash back depending on which site you choose. On a $50 purchase, that's an additional $3 in savings.
  • Search for promo codes before checking out -- Do a quick Google search for the store name + "coupons" or "promo code" to find extra savings. Typically you can at least find a free shipping code, but many times you'll find money off or gift with purchase codes, as well.
     
    Kmart actually does some of the work for you, listing some available offers clearly at the top of their site. For example, right now you automatically get free shipping on a purchase of $35 or more. There's also an offer for Shop Your Way members to get $10 back in point when you spend $35 on Back to School items. And when I did a search for "Kmart promo code", I found another code for $5 off a $45 purchase. Combine them all, and that's another $15+ in savings! And don't forget you're saving on gas, too.

All together, this equals a total savings of more than $30!!! Not too shabby for about 5 minutes worth of work. Am I right?! And of course you can use these same strategies to save at any store you like, AND they work beyond Back to School shopping. Discounted gift cards are one of my favorite ways to save year round!

Win a $150 Kmart gift card from Raise.com!

How would you like to win a $150 Kmart gift card? I want to help one of YOU stretch your Back to School shopping budget even further with this awesome giveaway. To enter to win, just comment below to let me know what back to school deals you're still searching for that could benefit from a Raise.com gift card. I'll choose a winner from all of the entries submitted!

 
Disclosure: Sponsored by Raise.com, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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