3 Savvy Strategies to Save Money on Healthy Spring Meals

Health Wraps

Seeking to eat better this spring? We’re sharing secrets to healthy meals on a slim budget.

In our last post, we talked about how spring is an ideal time to get in shape. I recently purchased a used treadmill and have been working out at least a few times a week. In addition to the exercise, I have also been making changes to my eating habits.

Healthy eating can not only support your goal of losing weight and getting in shape, but it can also lead to overall good health and the ability to fight off illnesses and premature aging. The only possible downside to eating healthier is a potential increase in costs at the grocery store. As my spouse and I have gotten more selective about what we put in our bodies, we have noticed an increase in costs, as we pay more to get better products or to purchase fresher items, like more fruits and vegetables.

Since eating better is worth it, we’re going to explore a few ways that you can make healthier meals while still keeping your grocery budget in check.

3 Frugal Tips for Healthy Food without Spending a Fortune

  1. Buy and cook in bulk. If you cook for a few meals at a time, it’s easier to save money. For example, I like to cook dinner for 2 days at a time, which saves me both money and time. Cooking in bulk makes it easier to buy in bulk, which can save you money per unit. You can freeze some perishable ingredients or cooked meals for later use.
  2. Buy what’s in season or on sale. An easy way to saveSpring Produce money is to buy what is in season, particularly when it comes to fruits and vegetables, or what’s currently on sale. Stores are more likely to have sales on current produce or other items that they have plenty of. Stock up on these items if you can preserve them for later use. Take advantage of sales to stock up on non-perishables and plan your meals around what’s plentiful/on sale.
  3. Plan your meals ahead of time. If you want to skip costly convenience foods and eat a healthier diet, it’s worth your while to do some meal planning. Whether you plan your meals weekly (like I do), bi-weekly, or monthly, come up with a schedule that works for your household. Meal planning allows you to buy only what you need for your planned meals and prevents you from picking up a pizza or fast food because you have not planned anything for dinner. When you’re purposeful regarding meal planning, you’ll find it easier to stay on track with your healthy eating and to maintain a healthy budget.

Although eating healthier may seem more expensive, in the long run it will save you money by keeping you in better shape and reducing the need for costly medical expenses.

FreeShipping.com is Your Answer to Budget-Friendly Purchasing

If you need supplies to make all of those healthy meals, FreeShipping.com can help you out and save you valuable funds. Make your purchases using your FreeShipping.com membership to gain access to exclusive coupons and discounts, free shipping, and 5% cash back.

Cooking.com Logo

Cooking is easier when you have the proper tools. If you need some new cookware, tableware, or pantry basics, consider Cooking.com. Not only do they have all of the cooking essentials that you require, Cooking.com also features thousands of helpful recipes. You can even sign up to receive free recipes delivered to your email inbox.

Shop Taste of Home Logo

Looking for ideas of what healthy meals to make? If you’re a fan of Taste of Home magazine, you know about all of the delicious recipes that they offer. Get even more recipe options when you check out their retail website Stop Taste of Home. You’ll find printed and digital cookbooks filled with enough recipes to last you a lifetime. Never wonder what’s for dinner again!

Gourtmet Sleuth Logo

Take your cooking up a notch with help from Gourmet Sleuth. Bookmark this website, as you’ll want to go back again and again to utilize their food dictionary, substitutions, and conversion calculators. You’ll also find a Culinary Resource Directory that lists other websites to assist you in your cooking endeavors. Their shop provides gourmet foods, cookware, tableware, and cookbooks to further enrich your cooking experience.

You and your family are sure to reap the positive rewards of healthy eating. When you focus on preparing healthy and delicious spring meals, you’ll be on your way to increased wellness inside and out. When you apply the money-saving tips provided here and utilize your FreeShipping.com membership, you’ll keep your pocketbook fit and robust.

Family Meal Healthy

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Get in Shape for Spring: 3 Tips for Affordable Spring Workout Routines

Spring Workout Girl Running Park

Feeling energized by spring’s warmer temps and longer days? Use the extra energy to exercise.

Now that warmer weather and longer days are here, it’s got many people thinking about getting in shape. If you’ve been lounging around all winter and packing on the pounds, spring is a great time to shed the extra weight.

But instead of spending a fortune on health clubs, personal trainers, and costly equipment, we’re getting in shape the savvy way. Check out our 3 tips to exercising on the cheap.

3 Savvy Strategies for Affordable Spring Workout Routines  

  1. Buy exercise and sports equipment secondhand. Did you know that exercise equipment can be used for more than just working out? For many, their treadmill or exercise bike serves as a makeshift coat rack — that is, until they decide to get rid of it. ;) People spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on exercise equipment with the intention of using it, but often their good intentions don’t last. You can save money when you need exercise or sports equipment by purchasing it used from thrift and consignment shops, estate and garage sales, Craig’s List and other local websites, or used exercise/sports equipment stores. We recently purchased a gently-used treadmill from Play It Again Sports for only $144.44 with tax.
  2. Work out to free music. If you’re motivated by music likemusic I am, it can be the ideal accompaniment to athletic activity, whether you prefer to jog, do aerobics, play sports, or bike. Skip the expense and still get plenty of good music to listen to with free online music services like Spotify (my personal fave!), I Heart Radio, Slacker Radio, and Pandora. I use Spotify on my computer and phone, and I can access my saved playlists from either device. You can search for songs or albums targeted to exercise or workout; dance mixes work well, too. You can also create and save your own unique workout playlists for future use. If you want to download music, look for websites that offer free MP3s, like Amazon.com and Jamendo.
  3. Take advantage of free and low-cost videos, routines, classes, and settings. Exercising can become an expensive endeavor. Trim the expense and take advantage of the many free or low-cost resources that are readily available. Look online for free exercise videos and exercise tutorials (video, print, or photo). Check out exercising shows on TV that provide a daily workout routine. Rent exercise videos from your local library, video store, or entertainment rental service, like Netflix.  Pick up cheap exercise videos at garage sales, dollar stores, or thrift stores. Look for free or low-cost opportunities for group exercise, including those hosted by your city and local YMCA. Instead of paying big money to work out at the local health club, consider using your home, a friend’s place, or the local park, gym, or community center.

It’s simple to get your body and budget in shape with so many easy and practical ways to save. But we’re not done yet.

FreeShipping.com Supports Your Physical and Financial Health

As you are getting in shape this spring, don’t forget to shop for exercise and health supplies using FreeShipping.com. As always, you will receive access to exclusive coupons and discounts, free shipping, and 5% cash back.

Weight Watchers Logo

Looking to lose some weight? Support your healthy exercise habits with nutritious food that will keep you trim. Weight Watchers is a great way to lose weight and keep it off. You get to eat real food and receive support from others in the program. With their new Simple Start program, they’ve made it even easier to get started and keep at it.

HFL Logo

If you’re looking for solutions to all of your health concerns, HFL may be your answer. Whether you want to increase your energy, lose weight, or keep your blood sugar levels under control, HFL specializes in natural solutions that really work. Their products make an excellent addition to your exercise and healthy eating routine.

Bistro MD Logo

Interested in a healthy eating program that makes it easy to stay on track and lose weight? Bistro MD allows you to experience weight loss the healthy way:  You choose a weight-loss plan, and they take care of planning and preparing all of your meals and shipping them to you. Started by a married couple, Bistro MD provides weight-loss plans tailored to both men and women.

Why spend more when you’re ready to take your health and fitness to the next level?! Spring is an ideal time to start pursuing your goals to get in shape and be a better you. With so many ways to save, there’s no excuse to delay!

Work out Outside

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3 Fun & Frugal Tips to Save Money on Easter Parties

Bunny Easter

Easter’s hopping your way…here’s how to save on the special day…

Easter falls on Sunday, April 20, 2014, this year, so we’re less than 2 weeks away. If you’re planning an Easter party or celebration, it just makes cents sense to try to save money in any way that you can. Easter should be a joyous and carefree time, so we’re sharing some fun and frugal tips to save on this special holiday.

3 Ways to Make Your Easter Party Memorable and Money-Saving

  1. Make cooking a family affair. Instead of placing the financial and time burdens of cooking all on one person, share the duty instead by turning your Easter feast into a potluck. Not only will it save money for everyone involved as they share the expense, it’s enjoyable to sample all of the dishes that everyone brings. I still remember some of my favorite dishes being desserts brought to Easter dinner by my family members.
  2. Reuse, reuse, reuse. One of the best ways to save is to useEaster Baskets something that you already have. So instead of buying disposable plates or new Easter baskets, look around your home to see what you already have. Other Easter items that can be reused: plastic fillable eggs, Easter basket grass/shredded paper, and decorations. If you must purchase items this Easter, make sure to buy products that can be reused in the future. Thrift stores and garage sales can be excellent places to buy gently used Easter supplies and decorations. I used to buy Easter baskets or buckets sturdy enough to be reused year after year, and I would save the eggs and grass to be used again. If you must buy fresh flowers for Easter dinner, buy potted plants that can be transplanted into your garden later or kept as indoor plants.
  3. Make your own Easter baskets. And speaking of using Easter items again, when you already have the supplies, it’s easy to make your own Easter baskets instead of purchasing prepackaged ones. In addition to saving you money, doing this can also make the kids happy by allowing you to truly customize the basket to their preferences. You may be able to save money by buying candy in bulk bags instead of prepackaged. Ensure the basket looks neat and presentable by using heated shrink wrap or colorful cellophane bags to pull it all together. Tie the basket with a cheerful bow as a festive final touch. After the festivities are over, don’t forget to save reusable items for next year.

These are just a few of the ways that you can save on Easter celebrations. By being creative, you can keep your holiday budget in check while still enjoying the day to the utmost with family and friends.

Keep Easter Fun and Frugal with Help from FreeShipping.com

When you invest in a FreeShipping.com membership, there’s no reason you should ever spend more than you have to on any occasion. Ordering your Easter party supplies online using your FreeShipping.com membership provides you with access to exclusive coupons and discounts, free shipping, and 5% cash back.

Egg Genie

Making hard-boiled eggs for Easter? Make them the easy way using the Egg Genie. This ingenious cooking tool holds up to 7 eggs and cooks them according to your preference (hard, medium, or soft-boiled) in a hurry. Egg Genie is perfect for saving precious time when you’re making deviled eggs or egg salad. Skip the boiling and worries about accidentally cracking your eggs when you cook all of your Easter eggs with Egg Genie. This is a great investment that can be used over and over again at Easter and all year long.

Jelly Belly Logo

Few things remind us of Easter more than jelly beans. But if you want to take your love of jelly beans to the next level, Jelly Belly will not disappoint. Jelly Belly specializes in gourmet jelly beans available in a dizzying assortment of flavors. If you have unique tastes, you may appreciate Jelly Belly’s buttered popcorn or chocolate pudding flavors. Jelly Belly also features other sweet confections besides jelly beans, including chocolate and gummies.

My M&Ms Logo

Give them an Easter that they’ll always remember — make it truly memorable with personalized candy from My M&Ms. Custom M&Ms are ideal for any holiday, notable occasion, or anytime you want to make someone feel truly special. You choose the colors and design the candies with the text, art, and/or photo that you desire. Imagine the delight when your kids open those baskets or eggs filled with colorful and customized M&Ms.

We’re making it simple to celebrate Easter without spending a fortune. Spread the wealth by sharing these helpful tips with your family and friends.

Here’s to a blessed and happy Easter for you and yours! :)

Happy Easter Bunny

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Save Money on Preparing Your Garden This Spring

gardening_mainAfter dealing with near-record snow amounts, ice levels, and frigid temperatures across much of the country this winter, most of us rightly feel that spring can’t come soon enough.  If you maintain a garden, you’re looking forward to the first chance to peel off all those layers and get going on your spring flowers and/or summer crops.  To truly blossom, your garden will need some early-season TLC, so here are a few tips to help you save money on preparing your garden this spring.

Pick a number.  Unless you’re rich (a longshot) or you’ve recently won the lottery (an even longer shot), you don’t have an unlimited gardening budget.  Figure out how much money you can afford to literally bury in the earth (fortunately, you will get a payout, in natural beauty and/or edibles), and pledge not to go past that limit.

Plot your move.  garden_dirtYour available space may be limited, so make sure you map out the territory you have and determine what you can grow — and where.  To avoid wasting time and money on your garden, check out “companion planting” guides online to learn which plants live well with others and which ones shouldn’t be neighbors.

Bug out.  This is the perfect time to eliminate garden pests; a little work now can reduce the time and effort you’ll need to put into eradicating insects from your little plot of heaven come summer.  Take an environmentally-friendly approach toward bug control to ensure that your bumper crop doesn’t come a cropper at harvest time.

Weed up.  Much like pest removal, springtime weeding can save you the elbow grease and expense of dealing with overgrown weeds later on.  Be sure to pull as much of the weed’s root out of the ground as you can and then turn over the soil.  Once you’re done with your initial round(s), devote a few minutes each day to making sure they don’t grow back (weeds are a pesky lot); mulch can help deny them the sunlight they need to flourish.

Veg in.  garden_womanMany vegetables take several months to reach fruition, so if you’re trying to save money at the dinner table this summer by growing your own tomatoes, lettuce, snow peas, and other natural delicacies, you need to plant them in early spring.

Nurture friendships.  Filling out your garden may be easier than you think.  You can grow a variety of plants with cuttings from a friend’s patch; even tomatoes, lettuce, and other veggies can be generated from virtually the barest ingredients.  If your buddies can’t oblige you, check with nature reserves or nurseries in your area; they sometimes give away cuttings that would otherwise be thrown away.

A thriving garden can contribute food, home decorations, and outdoor beauty to your life.  To save on your gardening needs, check out FreeShipping.com, where you can earn 5% cash back and enjoy free shipping and other deals at The Home Depot and other outdoor outlets.  What will you be growing this year?

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It’s Raining Money: How You Can Use Spring’s Rainy Days to Save Money

Raining Money

It’s raining money out there — find out how to take advantage of it…

“April showers bring May flowers.”

 We’ve all heard this famous saying, but April’s showers actually bring more than just flowers in May. Did you ever realize that spring’s rainy days could actually save you money? It’s true! Spring’s showers provide valuable water that can be used in various ways. Instead of having to pay for water, you can save cash by using the water that is naturally provided by nature. We’re sharing 3 ways that spring’s showers can bring savings to your household.

It’s Raining Money — 3 Tips to Take Advantage of Spring Shower Savings

  1. Let the weather do the watering. Have thirsty plants that need a watering? During spring, try to reduce manual watering by waiting for rain instead. Skip putting your sprinkler system on a timer, and rely on nature’s spring schedule. Watering lawns and flowers can get expensive, so take advantage of the naturally occurring moisture while it’s here. You may even want to bring your houseplants outside when you know that there will be a mild shower. If you plan to do some planting, check the weather, and do it shortly before rain is anticipated to skip post-planting watering.
  2. Collect to save cash. One of the best ways to save moneyRain Barrel using rain water is by having a rain barrel.  A rain barrel is a container that collects rain to be used later. A rain barrel is normally positioned around your house to collect water run-off from the roof. Collecting rain water can add up to significant savings, as the water can then be used for watering your lawn and plants. Some individuals choose to use collected water (once properly treated) as an extra stash in case of interruption of water service or in an emergency situation (not recommended for water collected from roof run-off or any other contaminated surfaces). Rain barrels are fairly easy to make using a plastic garbage can, or you can buy one already designed for that purpose. Depending on what region you live in, using a rain barrel can provide approximately 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season — that translates to money saved on your water bill!
  3. Cash in on your own car wash. Instead of taking your car to the car wash or wasting hose water, you can use rain water collected in your rain barrel to clean the car. Simply fill some buckets with the water, and add soap and some rags. You can also use the rain water to wash your exterior house windows, to fill birdbaths or fish ponds, or to top off swimming pools. Because collected rain water is soft water devoid of chemicals and minerals found in other water sources, it’s ideal for a variety of outdoor uses.

There are plenty of ways to save using water from spring showers. If you have city water, your bill will be reduced due to less water used and reduced sewer processed. If you have a well, you may experience savings on the electricity used to power the well due to reduced usage.

Avoid Rainy-Day Blues While Saving Cash with FreeShipping.com

Although rainy days can benefit your budget, they can also lead to boredom as everyone is stuck indoors. We’re ready to help you banish boredom while keeping your budget in check. We have 1,500+ retailers ready to offer you FREE shipping, exclusive coupons and discounts, and 5% cash back.

Are You Game Logo

Looking to reduce boredom on rainy days? AreYouGame.com will help you to find fun on even the wettest of days. Bring the outdoors in with Dome Terrarium – Culinary Herb Garden, Antworks-Space-Age Live Ant Habitat, or MythBusters Weird World of Water. Discover the importance of water as an energy source using the Snap Circuits Mini Kit: Water Clock.

Crayola

Brighten dark, rainy days with cheerful color from Crayola. Celebrate sunnier days to come with spring coloring pages that can be printed or colored online. Discuss the folklore and science of rain with the Bringing Rain lesson plan, or explore how the Caribs used reeds and rainwater to make baskets with the Reeds and Rainwater Make Baskets lesson plan. Imagine the rainbows to come after the storm with Washable Rainbow Connector Markers, or create your own outdoor rainbows when the rain subsides using the Washable Sidewalk Chalk Rainbow Rake.

eToys Logo

With the right supplies, you can bust boredom every rainy day. eToys.com can keep the little ones busy with science activities, like the Odd Pods Cacti Growing Kit and Weather Center. Experience firsthand how April showers bring May flowers using the Geosafari Sprout and Grow Window. The entire family can discover all of the various life forms that make up the complex tropical rain forest ecosystem by putting together the Tropical Rain Forest Jigsaw Puzzle – 1000-Piece.

Spring’s rainy days need not get you down. There’s many ways to save money using the ample rain water and to keep everyone busy indoors on a budget. Know someone who could use the money-saving tips that we provided? Be a pal and share this blog post. :)

April Showers Tulips

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How to Save Money at the Ballpark This Season

ballpark_mainJack Norworth’s 1908 classic, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” turned peanuts and cracker jack into ballpark staples, but for a lot of families, just attending a ballgame is often unaffordable; it takes too big a bite out of their household budgets.  Last year, on average, a day at the ballpark cost a family of four $210.46, including four tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, two programs, two adult-sized caps, and one parking spot.  (Red Sox fans paid the most, $336.99, while Arizona Diamondbacks fans paid the least, $151.55.)  If there are baseball fans in your family, though, you know how hard it is to deny them the chance to see at least one game in person every season, so here are a few tips on how to save money at the ballpark in 2014.

Pick Your Game(s) Carefully

All 30 Major League Baseball teams will use some sort of dynamic or variable ticket pricing in 2014.  Dynamic pricing creates different prices for tickets to the same game, depending on the opponent, the day of the week, the number of remaining tickets, and even the weather.  Variable pricing charges more for high-demand games and less for games against less popular teams.  Tickets sold on secondary markets (or sold via ballpark scalpers) almost always drop in price as game time nears.  If you’re not picky about the opponent or the date — or if you’re willing to wait until the last minute — you can often find tickets at a serious discount.

ballpark_foodBring Your Own Food

Most major league teams allow you to bring food into the ballpark (provided you pass their screening tests and follow other security guidelines).  Food prices can vary wildly from ballpark to ballpark, but packing your own meals (or dining beforehand) remains the most affordable option.  You can’t bring alcoholic drinks into the ballpark, but you’ll save quite a bit of money if you choose not to pay the exorbitant beer prices.

Use Public Transportation

The average cost of parking at MLB stadiums in 2013 was $14.06.  While that might seem reasonable, individual stadium parking costs ranged from $35 (Yankee Stadium) to $0 (under certain conditions at Tropicana Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida).  Compare public transportation costs when planning your trip to a specific ballpark.

Avoid In-Stadium Merchandise Booths

From replica jerseys to team caps, from autographed baseballs to foam fingers, ballpark merchandise sales are huge money-makers for ball clubs — and huge drains on your budget.  Protect your finances by keeping your wallet in your pocket.  If you really want some stadium tchotchkes, consider attending a “promotional” game.

ballpark_foamfingersJoin FreeShipping.com

To save money at the ballpark (and to save on baseball memorabilia, stadium-approved food containers, baseball gear, and more), check out FreeShipping.com, where you can enjoy 5% cash back, free shipping, and additional savings at Champs Sports and a variety of other sporting-goods outlets.  Be sure to tell us in Comments which major-league ballparks are on your bucket list.

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3 Savvy Strategies to Save Money on Spring Reading

Reading Book Outside

The weather’s warming up, making spring a great time to do some outdoor reading…

Going on spring break soon? It’s commonplace to bring along a few books when you will be traveling and/or going on vacation. For many, the busyness of everyday life does not leave a lot of time for enriching your mind through reading. But time away provides the opportunity to relax and get lost in a good book.

When my spouse and I went on a camping trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota a few years back, we stopped off in a local town and checked out a charming used-book store. We each picked out a book to read during our downtime. Since Eat, Pray, Love was popular at the time, I picked up a copy and read it in the evenings throughout our trip. It made for wonderful company during the trip and a tangible memory to bring home with me. I still have the book today.

If you’re looking to pick up some good spring reads without spending much, we have some frugal ideas for you.

3 Thrifty Tips for Spring Reading on a Budget

1.)    Borrow from your local lending library. Nowadays, it’s more convenient than ever to borrow books from your local library. Sign up for a free library card, and you will gain access to books in various formats, including paperback, hardcover, magazines, audio, and even digital e-books. Make sure to sign up for online access to be reminded of library book due dates, to reserve books for future pick-up, and to request due-date extensions, all from the convenience of your computer.

2.)    Take up book swapping. Not sure what to do with booksBook Swap or magazines that you’ve already read? Consider the practice of book swapping. You can pass on reading materials that you’ve already read and get new ones to peruse at little or no cost. You can establish a local group with your family and friends. Or you can utilize online websites, like Paperback Swap or BookMooch, that make swapping books with strangers simple. Some libraries have magazine swaps where you can take old copies and turn in old magazines that you no longer need. Another option is MagSwap, an online website that allows you to change your magazine subscriptions as your interests change.

3.)    Snag digital-book freebies. With the increasing availability of books in digital formats, it’s also becoming more common to get e-books for very cheap or even free. Sometimes authors and publishers will give away free digital copies of books as a means of promoting a new release. From time to time, retailers, like Amazon.com, will offer free copies of certain books. A website like FreeBookSifter makes it easy to find out what free book options are available.

FreeShipping.com Retailers Provide Reading at Reasonable Prices

When it comes to saving money, FreeShipping.com is your secret weapon. Why pay more when you can use your membership to get FREE shipping, exclusive coupons and discounts on 1,500+ retailers, and 5% cash back?!

Book Outlet Logo

Do you love a good read at an amazing discount? Book Outlet (formerly known as Book Closeouts) has what you’re looking for with their “read-iculously low prices.” Their entire inventory is new, but prices are slashed to reflect savings of 50-90% off the original list price. With over 500,000 square feet of books, Book Outlet truly has something for everyone, including new arrivals and kids’ books. Book Outlet will feed your reading addiction without taking a significant bite out of your wallet.

Hooked on Phonics Logo

As you’re stocking up on reading materials, don’t forget to teach your children the love of reading. If you want your kids to learn reading the right way, Hooked on Phonics has been helping children for decades. The Hooked on Phonics program makes learning to read and improving your reading skills easy and fun. Based on current research, Hooked on Phonics incorporates strategies that are proven to work with children’s natural learning style. The program is designed for children between the ages of 3 and 8 and has been earning kudos for its effectiveness since its inception in 1987.

Highlights Logo Another way to instill a love of reading in children is by providing reading materials that are fun, colorful, and interactive. Since 1946, Highlights for Children has been producing publications that allow children to learn in an enjoyable way. When I was a child, my mother signed me up for a Highlights magazine subscription, and I looked forward to all of the fun reading and educational activities found in each edition. In addition to Highlights’ various magazine options suited for children ages 0–12, they also have educational books, toys, and puzzles designed to foster learning.

Springtime is a great time to develop a positive lifelong habit — reading. By following our savvy strategies to save, you can indulge in your love of reading without breaking your budget.

Know someone who loves to read? Share these thrifty tips with them.

Spring Reading Garden

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