What I got free this week and how I got it.

I am not sure if I am actually going to be making this a series. But I think from time to time I will be sharing with all of you the free stuff I bring home. 

I am by no means a hoarder and I won't take anything just because it's free, but I do like a good deal. And what better deal is there than things you actually want or need that you get for free?

So I wanted to tell you about all the stuff I got for free this week. 

Free DVD

I picked up copy of "Big Hero 6" on DVD. We haven't seen the movie, but it looks cute so I put it away for Ryals for Christmas. 

I saw this deal on SouthernSavers

It's free through Topcashback.com, a rebate site. So I won't get my money back for a week. But I did this last year to get our much loved copy of Frozen and I was reimbursed $20. 

Click here to read more from SouthernSavers on how this works. 

I scored the boys a cute Spring outfit from Schoola, an online kid's consignment that sells gently used clothing and donates a portion of their proceeds to local schools. 

You can click HERE and get a $15 credit once you've made a purchase you will get your own link to share and earn more $15. I currently have a $75 credit balance!! 

I also got free dish soap, dishwasher detergent and baby wipes (not pictured) from ePantry. 

You've probably read about this company on a lot of different blogs lately. I was skeptical, but since I got a $10 credit through SarahMae.com I decided to try them out. I was really impressed with the quality of their products, the speed at which they arrived and their customer service. 

I was able to score these deals through credits I received by sharing my referral link with friends. You can click here to get your own $10 credit and once you place an order you will get your own referral link. 

Note: You do have to make a $20 purchase. 

You're so welcome @epantry thank you for the fantastic customer service! #peoplestillsaythankyou #epantry

A photo posted by LydiaSenn (@thesennfam) on

I am not joking when I say they have great customer service. And it's a small business with just 15 employees!

Note: This post contains referral or affiliate links. This means when you click and make a purchase I will get a small commission in the form of payment or credit for items. This is at NO additional cost to you. I never talk about products I wouldn't buy with my own money. For more you can read my FULL statement here

Spinach Pesto with Flaxseeds- Allergy Friendly!

We love pesto at my house. It's flavorful and pretty kid friendly. But I understand it's not very allergy friendly. While my family doesn't personally have to deal with food allergies I know some of your families do. 

So a couple weeks ago I whipped up this spinach pesto with flaxseeds modifying this recipe from Chow. . It's budget-friendly because instead of basil it uses pesto and it's allergy friendly because instead of pine nuts there are flaxseeds. 

Plus it's really simple. 

You will need:

8 cups loosely packed spinach (baby spinach works best)

1/2 cup flax seeds

2 garlic close

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt and pepper 

a food processor

Place half your spinach in your food processor along with your flaxseeds and begin to process. after about 20 seconds add in your garlic and the rest of your spinach. 

Add in your salt and pepper along with your cheese. 

Now comes the fun part. While your processor is still running begin adding in your oil, allowing it to drizzle down the side of the bowl until the entire thing is a green velvety dip! 

Serve with some whole wheat pasta. Trust me. It's delicious. 

What about you? What have you been cooking lately? 

Top Five Money Saving Posts

Over the past few months I have written A LOT about saving money. Is it crazy to say that it's a passion? But really, helping others feel hopeful about their futures is a passion. 

Particularly moms. I've been a mom in debt and I am have been a mom out of debt. Which one feels better do you think? 

Today I am going to share the top five MOST read money saving posts. 

   

 

 

If I had to describe what it felt like to live with a pile of debt it would be this: like constantly wearing a backpack full of bricks. 

Could you breath with that on your back? Move freely? Rest peacefully? No. You couldn't. 

I know that it isn't polite to talk about money. But I am going to do that today, because I feel like telling our story will encourage some of you. 

Read More.  

I like to say that paying off our debt wasn't about what we did but what we didn't do. I thought I would share a few things we didn't do. 

Read More. 

 

 

I think at some point we have ALL reached a point when there is more month than money.  

We may have entered the month with the best of intentions, but we just didn't stick to our budget. That could be for a number of reasons

But for a lot of people it comes down to three things, emergencies, lifestyle and guilt. Of course there are endless things that can wreck a budget if you let them, but it seems that these things that cause our money to fly out the window the fastest. 

 

Read More.

We all know that sticking to a grocery budget is paramount... but what about when your famliy suffers from food allergies? 

Each week on my YouTube channel I answer a budget-related question from a subscriber. 

Read More. 

One day I woke up and decided to stop living paycheck to paycheck. I remember the day clearly. We had more month than money, our checking account was in the red and we had about $136 in our savings account. That's a bad day. 

It is days like that you feel you won't overcome, that you will always be in debt, that you will always feel the noose of credit cards and bad decisions and self-doubt.

But you won't. I am speaking directly to you, sister. YOU WON'T. You can break the cycle, you can get off the crazy train, you can own your life, get out of debt and stop living pay check to pay check. 

Okay, so how does one break the crazy cycle? These are the things that worked for our family while we were working to become debt free

Read More. 

 

 

Kitchen Time Saving Tips

I've talked in the past about how I save time in the kitchen by meal planning

But I thought I'd share some other time saving techniques. 

 

1. Chop a week's worth of veggies all at once. 

If I know we're going to have some roast vegetables with dinner on Tuesday and roast green beans with dinner on Monday I will go ahead and just chop of all the veggies for a few nights at the same time. I already have my cutting board, I already have my knife. I just take 10 minutes to chop and place everything in freezer bags. I will go ahead and throw in all of the oils, seasons etc. I am going to use to cook my vegetables later one. 

2. Make your own frozen skillet meals. You knows those skillet meals you see in the freezer section where all the meat, sauces and veggies are ready to go? You can do that at home. Last week I bought a giant pack of chicken breasts. (They were really on sale!) I went ahead and planned a couple meals and again complied everything uncooked into  freezer bags and threw them in the freezer. 

For example, I put all the ingredients for stir fry in a bag, including the soy and teriyaki sauce. When it's time to cook I will dump it all in the skillet and go! The same thing can apply to crock pot meals you prep in advance. 

3. Brown your meat and freeze. Recently I browned an entire pound of ground beef, but I didn't use the whole pound for one meal. I placed it in bags again- in the freezer- and pulled it out when I needed it. 

4. Save your scraps. I save my onion peels, bits of garlic, even celery leaves for use later in stocks and broths. I just keep a ziplock bag handy in my freezer and dump them in. 

5. Preportion your beans. I cook dry beans instead of using canned. It saves a lot of money and I think tastes better. When I cook a big batch I freeze them in smaller portions measured out for recipes I know I will make. 

6. Group your ingredients. Keep canned tomatoes and chili seasoning together or pasta and pasta sauce for quick access when making your favorite dish. 

For more tips pickup a copy of the The Poor Girl's Handbook to the Kitchen

What about you? What kitchen tips do you have? 

Looking cute on a thrift store budget

I am not a clothes horse or a fashion girl. Oh no. I have to make a conscious effort to look nice everyday. 

That's why it was really no big deal when I decided to get rid of half my clothes last year. However, I did replace a few of the things I donated with pieces I love and wear often. 

And the best part was most of them were free or less than $5 per item.

Thanks to credits at places like Twice and shopping at my local Goodwill. 

SO I thought I would show you some of my frugal outfits and tell you how I came up with the outfit pairings. 

Ralphelaurensweaterfromgoodwill

I got this Ralph Lauren sweater at Goodwill for just $3.99 and I paired it with my thrift store jeans ($4.99) and my Goodwill scarf ($1.99). Throw in my $2.99 JC Penney shoes and that outfit cost me less than $14. 

A photo posted by LydiaSenn (@thesennfam) on

Not bad for an outfit that is 90% thrift!

A photo posted by LydiaSenn (@thesennfam) on

I got this cute black and white striped top from Twice. It is made by New York and Co. and I wear it all the time with black pants, jeans even my denim skirt. 

You can get a free $10 credit from Twice by clicking on the link here

And Twice will give you store credit in exchange for gift cards to major retailers including Walmart!

A photo posted by LydiaSenn (@thesennfam) on

This outfit might be the one I am the MOST proud of. Hand-me-down jeans, thrift store shirt and sweater ($1 and $3.99 respectively) and a sweater that was a gift. 

This outfit is a mash of old, new and thrift. (Please excuse the dirty mirror!)

The jeans are from Old Navy and the top is from Goodwill.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking "my Goodwill isn't that great." I understand, I really do. But keep looking, keep digging through those racks and you might just be surprised. 

Here are some tips when shopping at thrift: 

Look for things that are "NWT" new with tags. When searching online boutiques like Twice put NWT into the search function to find thrifted items that have never been worn. 

When at a thrift or second hand store check the labels. Don't pay $3.99 for something you could get for the same price new on sale. Instead, look for name-brand, top-quality items. 

Look for fabrics that are heavy or weaves that are thick.

Check for tears, pulls or loose threads. 

Choose patterns that are vibrant. 

What about you? How do you find cheap and cute clothes? 

Linked up at, Thrifty ThursdayFrugal FridaySITS SharefestSmall Victories Sunday, The Thrifty Couple

Five things we DON'T buy

This month marks one year since our family became debt free. There are a lot of things we did on our journey to dumping debt.

We learned to budget. We started meal planing. I could go on. But I think one of the main reasons we were able to pay off debt and free up income was because we cut a lot of little things (and a few big things) out of our budget. 

So here are five things we don't spend money one. Note: I don't think ANY of these things are bad, or wrong, or inherently wasteful. 

1. Paper towels and napkins. I actually don't use paper towels for a lot of reasons, one of them is I think they're kind of gross. They always shred on me, or bunch, or leave something behind. It's grody. (Adult work there, grody.)

ut also, I don't see the point in wiping my countertops or child's face with something and then trowing it away. 

So instead I use tshirt rags, which are basically free. 

And instead of napkins we use cloth napkins. I purchased some at Michaels' four for $1. 

And in case you were wondering, this adds one load of laundry a week to my rotation and according to this handy calculator, it costs me $1.34 to run my washer and dryer per load.

Plus it's one less thing to have to keep up with, I don't have to track when we are running low on paper towels and napkins. 

2. Shopping clubs. Paying to shop? We did have a membership to Sam's Club that we got when Groupon ran a special. 

But I found the hours we were "allowed" to shop limited me and that I ended up buying a lot of stuff I didn't need and spending MORE money than I needed to. 

I could just as easily order toilet paper and other bulk items from Amazon for the same price. And then I don't have to put on shoes or leave my house. WIN! 

3. Subscription boxes. You know what I am talking about. Those really fun and colorful boxes filled with all sorts of great goodies like snacks, make up or treats for your kids. They are certainly fun to receive, but are they a good value? 

A lot of them are between $10 - $20 a month and you have no choice in the items you receive. 

I did get a Bluum box for three months last year and it was a total disappointment. You can watch an unboxing here. I had ordered it during a special and had not paid full price for it, but it still wasn't worth the money, even in a sale price. 

I would rather save my money and then go and purchase quality items I want to have. 

4. Cable. I have talked about this a lot. But no, our family doesn't have cable. Not even a basic plan. We have an antenna, a subscription to Netflix and an Amazon Prime membership (worth every penny!). 

We save over $75 a month and I feel we are better able to control what our children see. 

My husband is a HUGE football fan and we live in Alabama where football is king, and I feel like if he can give it up I can give it up. 

5. Movie rentals. I have written about this before, but we don't pay for movie rentals. We either rent movies with our free Redbox codes, check them out from the library or wait until we have some sort of iTunes or Amazon gift card. 

I realize $1.50 isn't going to make or break anyone, but when you add up ALL of these things over the course of time it can really make a big budgeting difference. 

What about you? What things are you NOT spending money on to save cash? 

Linked up at The Thrifty CoupleFrugal FridaySITS SharefestSmall Victories Sunday#PinUpParty

 

 

Tips for photographing toddlers

tips for photographing a toddlers 2015

I am pretty sure I have photographed my children everyday since they were born. Well, almost everyday. 

If your child is anything like mine they are constantly in motion. I have lots of blurry photos, lots of pictures of the back of my child's head and lots of pictures of him crying because I made him sit still. 

And while I am NOT a professional photographer and have no desire to photograph anyone other than my family I have picked up a few tricks for photographing a toddler. 

Click here for more. 

Trade in your gift cards for FREE name brand clothes

This is NOT a sponsored post, I just wanted to share this deal with you. Although it does contain a referral link. 

Do you have an old gift card to a store you never visit? Twice wants it! You can trade in your gift cards for credit to Twice!

If you don't know what that is it's an upscale online consignment boutique that sells and trades name brand clothes in ALL sizes. 

A photo posted by LydiaSenn (@thesennfam) on

I am a plus-sized woman and I have gotten dresses, shirts and sweaters from Twice that I LOVE. 

Right now Twice is offering an amazing deal. They are offering to take your unused gift cards to several MAJOR retailers in exchange for credit to Twice. They will give you full value of your card and you can do some shopping. 

Tip: While Twice is a consignment shop, they do have several items that have never been worn. Simply use their search function and type in "NWT" that means "New With Tags." 

If you have never tried Twice before you can get a $10 credit by using my link. When you make a purchase I will also get a $10 credit. 

So go get a free $10 credit and set up a new account. Then start uploading your gift cards. 

If you order something cute, I want to see it. So snap a photo and tag me on Instagram


Twice is accepting gift cards from: 

Adidas

Armani Exchange

Athleta

Banana Republic

Bloomingdale’s

Coach

DSW

Express

Gap

Guess

J.Crew

JCPenney

Lands’ End

L.L.Bean

Lululemon

Macy’s

New York & Co

Nike

Nordstrom

Old Navy

Piperlime

Ralph Lauren

Target

The North Face

Victoria’s Secret

Walmart


Preparing a toddler for a new baby

My baby is nearly two. The days of having new born in the house are gone... for now. (Who knows? That could all change.)

But the memories of bringing home Isaac are fresh in my mind. I wondered how Ryals would adjust. He was just 18 months old, and after all, still a baby

But we managed. Everyone survived and now my babies are three and 20 months and the best of toddler buddies. 

Today I wanted to share some of the things that worked for me. 

1. I started early. I really didn't know how much Ryals understood about what was happening in our family? Did he realize that mama's growing belly was a baby? Did he know he would have a new friend coming? 

But I started talking to him about it in very basic terms. I would say "you are Mama's baby and you will always be Mama's baby, but soon Mama and Daddy will have two babies." 

2. I got him involved in the process. 

We got out some of Ryals old baby clothes and I had him "help" me sort them. He helped me put things in the new baby's room and we spend lots of time in the new nursery. 

3. We went baby spotting. Every time we saw a baby in the grocery store, church or the library I would show him the baby, talk to him about how little the baby was and how we were getting a new baby at our house. 

4. We gave him a "baby" of his own. Ryals has a sweet little lamb doll that was given to him just a few weeks before his new brother arrived. I would tell him to rock the baby or put the baby in the bed. 

Of course these are not things that Ryals would ever do for the baby but I think it helped him feel a part of it all. 

5. We prayed for the new baby. Every night when we said nighttime prayers with Ryals we prayed for the new baby and that he would arrive safe and healthy. 

6. We told him what the plan was. I ended up having to be induced, but before we figured all of that out we told Ryals that he would be going to stay with Nana and PawPaw. We told him he would have lots of fun and get to play outside and do all of the fun things he does at their house. 

We told him that while he was at their house mama would have a new baby. 

I am pretty sure most of it went over his head, but I also feel like small children absorb way more than we realize. 

Okay, what about you? Have you had to prepare a young toddler for a new baby? What did you do? 

Teriyaki quinoa bowl

Have you ever been in the search of a great side dish or meatless Monday meal but found yourself just staring into your pantry like Ina Garten might pop out and whip you up something amazing? Yeah, me too. 

Last week I was trying to come up with something to serve with some chicken I had cooked in my slower cooker.

I randomly started pulling things out of the pantry when my hand landed on an unopened bag of red quinoa. 

But plain quinoa? Nope. That's when I decided to just throw random stuff in the skillet and watch what happened. 

Have you ever been in the search of a great side dish or meatless Monday meal but found yourself just staring into your pantry like Ree Drummond might pop out and whip you up something amazing? Yeah, me too.

This is what happened! And it, my friends, was fabulous. 

I am calling it the Teriyaki quinoa bowl. I am sure that's already a thing, but whatever. 


What you will need:

1 cup uncooked red quinoa (or any variety)

1- 14 ounce can of black beans, I used some I had cooked from a bag and then frozen

2 cups edamame 

half a bottle of teriyaki sauce. 

Cook your quinoa according to the direction. Then dump into a skillet over low heat. (Or leave in the pot you cooked it in.)

Next throw in your edamame and black beans. Then, while stirring the mixture together add in your teriyaki sauce and make certain it is all coated. Then cover your pan and let simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes. 

Voila. You're done. That's it. 


This could very easily be a main course and not just a side dish. It was so good!

What about you? What fast meals are you cooking this week?