Thrifty Thursday: Summer fun for kids on a budget!

Summer vacation has already started for many families and mine is just around the corner (only two more days to go).  One of the big questions I’m hearing from a lot of people is “What can we do for free or cheap this summer?”  I plan to post weekly ideas about the things I’m doing for free or cheap with my kids this summer, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Board games – My kids absolutely love it when we get to pull out the board games and we have a closet full of different ones that I try to rotate through so that they don’t get tired of playing the same thing over and over again (although for some reason they never seem to get tired of Candyland).

*Go Bowling ~ A number of bowling centers are offering two free games of bowling each day this summer.  Adults can purchase a discount “family pass” so they can participate, too!  Check out the list of participating free bowling centers here to see if there is one in your area (sadly, there is not one in mine)

*Build and indoor fort – Grab your pillows, blankets, and sheets, and get creative! If you need some ideas, here are some great articles:
Building an indoor fort (from

How to build an indoor fort (from

*Camping ~ August 14-15th you can get free entrance fees at more than 100 national parksCheck here for a list of additional free entrance days by state.  Here’s a tip – many national parks never charge an entrance fee, so you can plan inexpensive visits year round!

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

*Crafts and other activities ~ Here are some websites with free or cheap ideas and printables:

DTLK – this is one of the first “kid” sites I discovered when my daughter was about 2 and we were working on skills like coloring and learing the alphabet – they have lots of great printables and kid friendly craft ideas

Enchanted Learning – lots of great printables and activity ideas for preschool-aged children and school-aged children – we subscribe to the magazine also, but you can get great kid craft ideas and kid friendly recipes online, too!

Make and Takes – I subscribe to this blog and love getting my “daily fix” of craft ideas and kid friendly recipes!

Make and Takes

No Time for Flashcards – lots of great, affordable, ideas for kid fun!

No Time For Flash Cards

*Websites where you can purchase craft packets or other activities for a reasonable price:

1-2-3 Preschool Projects – Order a sample activity for free or order themed boxes or activities for the entire month. Prices for the activity packets and boxes are affordable, but they do kind of “get you” on shipping. – lots of great preschool activities and ideas for making bags and swapping them with your friends

Oriental Trading Company – they have lots of great craft packets for preschoolers and school-aged kids. My daughter loves the “activities” I have gotten for her from here. Many of the activities come in “units” of 6-12 which means you can make things for family and friends or it provides a source of entertainment if you have a playdate. Don’t forget to order through Ebates to get 3% cash back (and a $5 bonus using this link if you haven’t signed up with them yet)

*Indoor picnic – instead of eating lunch at the table, spread out a blanket and have an indoor picnic. This breaks up the monotony and my kids love it!

*Movies ~ Check out this list of movie theaters that are offering free or cheap movies this summer

*Read ~ Encourage your child’s love of reading by checking out this list of summer reading programs for kids where you can earn lots of freebies!

Do you have a budget friendly summer fun idea to share or another Thrifty Thursday tip?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.

Thrify Thursday: Birthday freebies for kids

My two kids just recently celebrated their birthdays and one of the fun things was all of the great birthday freebies. If your child has a birthday coming up, make sure you sign up for these great freebies ahead of time!

Baskin Robbins ~ Join the Baskin Robbins birthday club and get a free 2.5 ounce scoop on your child’s birthday!

Benihana ~ Join the Kabuki Kids club and your child (ages 12 and under) will get a free souvenir mug of their choice with the purchase of any children’s meal during the month of their birthday

Burger King ~ Join the BK Birthday Club and your child (13 years and under) will get a free BK kids meal on their birthday!

California Pizza Kitchen ~ Join the CPKids Birthday Club and get a free CPKids meal during your birthday month for kids 10 and under.

The Children’s PlaceJoin the Children’s Place birthday club and get a coupon for 15% off your entire purchase during your child’s birthday month

Chuck E. Cheese ~ Your child can get 20 free tokens during their birthday month when you sign up for the Chuck E Cheese e-mail club!

Denny’s ~ Join the Denny’s Kids birthday club and get a free Denny’s Grand Slam on your birthday!

Sonic ~ Join the Sonic Kids Birthday Club and your child will get a free Wacky Pack on their birthday!

Toys ‘R Us ~ This is probably our family’s favorite birthday freebie.  Prior to your child’s birthday, you will receive coupons in the mail for $5 off a $25 purchase at Toys ‘R Us.  Your child will receive a birthday card from Geoffrey with a $3 gift card good on any purchase and they will get a special phone call from Geoffrey on their birthday (my daughter has been receiving these calls since she was a year old and looks forward to them every year!)  Join Geoffrey’s birthday club here.

Whataburger ~ Join the Whatakids Birthday club and get a free Justaburger on your birthday!

Do you know of any other great birthday freebies for kids or do you have another Thrifty Thursday tip to share?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.

Thrifty Thursday: Earn freebies through summer reading programs!

Has your summer started yet?  Mine is just around the corner and I’m so excited!  I’ve always loved reading and thus far have been able to pass that love on to my children.  One of the things we love about summer is all of the great summer reading programs.

Here are a few summer reading programs you might want to take advantage of:

*Barnes & Noble ~ Earn a free book when you read 8 books!  You can download your Passport to Reading and view the list of free books that you can choose from here.

*Book It Summer Reading Challenge ~ Read five books this summer and enter to win a prize pack that includes the following items:  tote bag, water bottle, cloth fun disk, beach ball, sunglasses, beach towel, dive balls, Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis, and a $20 Visa gift card.  Print the entry form and get more details here.

*Bookworm Wednesdays ~ Every Wednesday at participating Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas, or Cinema de Lux box offices, kids can get free admission to a select children’s film when they persent a book report.  Get the details, download the forms, and check out the schedule here.

*Borders ~ Check out the Double Dog Dare summer reading program.  Kids 12 and under can get a free book from Borders or Waldenbooks when they read 10 books this summer.  Some of the free books include some of my favorites from my childhood such as Ramona the Brave and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  You can download the form and get more details here.

*Chuck E Cheese Reading Rewards ~ Read a book every day for two weeks and get 10 free tokens from Chuck E Cheese (pizza purchase is required).

*Half Price Books ~ Check out the “Feed Your Brain” summer reading program.  Kids ages 14 and under can earn a $3 Half Price Books shopping card for each week they read at least 15 minutes per day.  This program starts June 1st and extends through July 31st.  Get the details and download your reading log here.

*Rainforest Cafe ~ Download Rio’s Reading Reward calendar, read for at least 20 minutes each day for one month, and get a free kid’s meal! (with the purchase of an adult entree)

*Reading Warriors Challenge – Kids 8 and older can join this fun challenge based on the legends and adventures of the warrior cats in Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series.  Get the details and start your challenge here.

*Your local library ~ Check to see what summer reading programs your local library offers.  My daughter just brought home a bookmark with the details for our library’s summer reading program.  For reading five books, kids can earn a bookmark, for reading 10 books, they get a pencil, for reading 15 books, they get a certificate, and for reading 20 books, they get a trophy! (she’s really excited about that)

Do you know of any other great summer reading programs or do you have another Thrifty Thursday tip to share?  Feel free to link up below!  For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.

Thrifty Thursday: Summer recipes using your salad dressing stockpile!

Kraft salad dressing is $.89/bottle after coupons at Target this week, which is a pretty good “stock up” price. One of the things I love about summer is summer salads!  If you decide to stock up on salad dressing this week (or you already have a stockpile), here are some great recipes (salads and non-salads) that will help you actually use your stockpile!

Do you have a favorite recipe using some sort of dressing to share or a Thrifty Thursday tip to share? If so, please link up below!

Chicken Spinach Bow Tie Pasta Salad ~ I had this salad for the first time at Marci’s baby shower last year and I was totally hooked.  It became my favorite salad to take to family gatherings and potlucks last summer!

baby spinach
grilled chicken
bow tie pasta
feta cheese
toffee glazed almond accents
diced tomatoes

-make the dressing by mixing equal parts Italian dressing and Caesar dressing

Chicken Pasta Salad with Grapes and Poppy Seed Dressing – I love pasta salad in the summer! I found this recipe on last summer and decided to try it out.

1 box Betty Crocker® Suddenly Salad® classic pasta salad mix
1/2 cup refrigerated poppy seed dressing
1 1/2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
3/4 cup halved red grapes
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1. Empty Pasta mix into 3-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well.
3. In large bowl, stir together seasoning mix and dressing. Add pasta and remaining ingredients; toss to combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate.

Taco salad ~ This is a pretty basic recipe that my mom used to make all of the time when I was a kid – it sounds a little bit strange, but when you mix it all together, it’s yummy!

Iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 can light red kidney beans, drained
Ground beef, browned (I mix mine with a little bit of taco seasoning as I cook it)
Corn tortilla chips (crushed)
Shredded cheddar cheese (8 oz bag)
Thousand Island salad dressing (chilled)

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Parsley parmesan chicken: I love the recipe!  It’s one of our favorites. 

2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 6-8 chicken breasts)
1/3 bottle of Italian salad dressing
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 c dry bread crumbs (used Seasoned Italian bread crumbs)
1 1/2 T parsley flakes
1/2 T paprika
Salt & Pepper

Assembly Directions:
Marinate chicken in dressing overnight.
Mix the remaining ingredients and bread each breast with coating.

To Freeze: Lay chicken breasts side by side on baking sheets and place in freezer for 1 to 2 hours to firm up. Place chicken in labeled gallon size Freezer Bag and freeze.

Cheesy Ranch Potato Bake – I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I found it on a Menu Planning Monday post this week and it is on my list of recipes to try.

4 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 (8 ounce) package shredded colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend
1 (8 ounce) bottle Ranch dressing

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
2. Place the potatoes in the baking dish. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Evenly distribute the butter over the potatoes.
3. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until potatoes are tender. Remove from oven, and mix in the cheese and Ranch dressing. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Thrifty Thursday: Saving money on magazines!

I love reading magazines for recipe ideas, home organization ideas, and even fun craft ideas for my kids.  Plus, more and more magazines seem to be including great coupons.  In the past, even though I enjoyed reading magazines, I never subscribed to them and would typically only indulge in reading them while trying to pass the time in the doctor’s office.  I had no idea how easy it is to get magazines for free or close to free!

One of my favorite sites to order magazines from is Best Deal Magazines.

Right now, you can get a one year subscription to these popular titles for just $4.69: (enter the code PXCJ516 to save an additional 15% making your subscription just $3.99!)  You will also get an additional 10% cash back when you shop through Ebates (plus a $5 bonus if you are signing up for the first time)

Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine
Family Fun Magazine
Parent & Child Magazine
Parents Magazine
Seventeen Magazine
Shape Magazine
Taste of Home Magazine
Texas Monthly Magazine
Woman’s Day Magazine

Another great site is Tanga Magazines.  They have great daily deals.  Some recent “hot” deals they have offered included a one year subscription to Shape Magazine for $2.50 and a one year subscription to Taste of Home for $3.50.

Amazon also has Daily Deals.  I have gotten subscriptions to magazines such as Parents, Family Fun, O Magazine, and Southern Living for $5 or less thanks to these deals!

What are your favorite magazines?  Have you found any other magazine sites where you can save big?  Do you have a Thrifty Thursday deal to share?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.