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Free Summer Reading Programs 2019

If you’re looking for summer reading programs for kids, this is our comprehensive list of all the completely FREE programs!

{Looking for other fun summer deals? Kids can bowl for free and skate for free at many participating locations this summer! And don’t forget to stop by Sonic after 8 p.m. for half-price ice cream shakes!}

Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Believe it or not, it’s almost that time of year again — when school is out and summer reading programs abound. Yay! (Well, some of you might not be saying “yay!”, but we do because my kids LOVE them some summer reading programs!)

Free Summer Reading Programs 2019

Do your kids love to read, too? If so, this is our big list of all the FREE summer reading programs that are available nationally!

Amazon — Kids who read any eight books this summer can bring their list of books read to the nearest Amazon Retail Store to receive a Star Reader Certificate and their choice of a free book.

Audiobook Sync — SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads per week for teens 13+. Sign up to get notifications when the free audiobook downloads are available.

Barnes & Noble — Earn a free book through the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program for kids in grades 1-6.

  1. Read any eight books this summer and record them in your Summer Reading Journal (English or Español ). Tell them which part of the book is your favorite, and why.
  2. Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between August 1st and August 31st, 2019.
  3. Choose your free book from the books listed on the back of the reading journal.

Books-A-Million — Read any four books from the Summer Reading Adventure section in-store or online and receive a free drawstring backpack (while supplies last).

Half Price Books — Kids 14 or younger can read 15 minutes per day to reach a total of at least 300 minutes. After that, they can take their completed reading log to their local store to earn Bookworm Bucks before August 29th. (In addition, they have a summer reading program for teens.)

Lifeway Stores– Read six books over the course of the summer and memorize six Scripture verses. Then, complete your journal and the online form to redeem your prizes (Choose from one of nine books, plus receive a free Bible, while supplies last). This program is geared toward grades 1 through 6 and even toddlers, ages 1 to 5. However, all are welcome to join in the adventure!

Scholastic — Kids can enter their summer reading minutes online to unlock digital rewards as they complete weekly reading challenges and access book excerpts, videos, and other summer-exclusive content.

Showcase Cinemas — Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Cinema de Lux, Showcase, or Multiplex Cinemas box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six years of age receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report.

Local Libraries — Above all, don’t forget about your local library! Most of them offer fun summer reading programs with prizes and more.

Psst! Don’t forget about the Pizza Hut Book-It Program that runs each school year!

Do you know of any other Summer Reading Programs we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Dollar Tree

Since you all loved my list of what NOT to buy at Aldi, I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of what NOT to buy at Dollar Tree!

a photo of Dollar Tree

What You Shouldn’t Buy at Dollar Tree

Wondering what you shouldn’t buy at Dollar Tree? Well, I’ve got you covered in this post!

Now, before you think I’m here to disparage Dollar Tree, let me be clear: Dollar Tree is one of my favorite places to shop at. And I’m thrilled that I passed that love on to my daughter!

I mean, what’s not to love about Dollar Tree? Everything in the store is a dollar or less.

If you’re wondering what I think you should buy at Dollar Tree, be sure to check out my HUGE list of the best things to buy at Dollar Tree.

I go to the Dollar Tree for Valentine’s Day gifts. We have a family Christmas tradition where we all go to Dollar Tree and buy each other stocking stuffers! I even think it’s a great place to save money on groceries!

But just like any other store, there are definitely some things I think you should not purchase at Dollar Tree because they aren’t great deals. I put together a list of my top five things below:

(Psst! Did you see my list of 5 Things You Should Not Buy at Aldi?)

1. Cheap Plastic Toys

If you want to buy the cheap plastic toys, you totally can — especially if they will give your kids a lot of enjoyment. (Hey, if a cheap plastic toy for $1 will buy you 30 minutes of peace and quiet, I’m all for that!)

In full disclosure, we have totally have bought the games, puzzles, activity books many times over the years (especially for road trips). That said, we try to be careful that we’re not buying cheap toys that won’t work and are just going to break in a few minutes.

2. Boxes of Cereal

While they do have name brand cereals, they are small boxes and the price per ounce isn’t a great deal — especially compared to what you’d pay for cereal at Aldi.

mac and cheese at Dollar Tree

3. Mac & Cheese

I’ve told you that my kids are big fans of the boxed Mac & Cheese at Aldi — and it’s less than $0.50 per box! Also, there are often deals on Annie’s Mac & Cheese where you can get it for $1 per box or less!

Looking for a really delicious homemade mac & cheese recipe. I highly recommend this one.

4. Chips/Pretzels

If you don’t have a Kroger or Aldi, the prices on tortilla chips and pretzels could be a good deal for you, however, the packages are smaller than a typical bag of chips or pretzels at the grocery store.

For reference, most Aldi stores have larger bags of chips/pretzels for $1.19 and Kroger often larger bags of chips/pretzels on sale for $1.

towels at Dollar tree

5. Hand towels and wash cloths

Of all the things you can buy at Dollar Tree, hand towels and wash cloths are one of the few things I think you should never buy. Why? Because they are basically scratchy, non-absorbent rags.

I mean, if you want to buy them for rags, be my guest. But I think you’d be better off using leaves off your backyard trees than these “towels”. 🙂 Okay, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but still, just don’t buy these!

Instead, if you need to buy hand towels or wash cloths, wait until Kohl’s has a deal and coupon. Then, you’ll spend $1-2 per hand towel and wash cloth to buy something that actually works!

Do you agree with my list? Is there anything you would add to it? I’d love to hear!

Related Links:

Gretchen’s $56 Grocery Shopping Trip and Menu Plan

Dillons Trip

Dillons

4 bags Taco Bell Shredded Cheese at $3.49 each – On Sale Buy One Get One Free, used one Buy One Get One Free coupon (I found a coupon dispenser by the cheese with this coupon!) – $0.87 each after coupon (I was so excited about this price! I wasn’t sure if the coupon would work, but the cashier said I could use it. I plan to go back and grab four more bags later today!)

2 bags Apples – Marked down to $0.99 each

3.23 lbs Bananas – $1.58

1 Green Leaf Lettuce – $1.69

1 pkg Hamburger Buns – $0.89

2 pkg Strawberries – $1.88 each (I was SO excited about this price! My kids love strawberries!)

1 Core Water – $1, used Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon

1 can Kroger Refried Beans – $0.79

1 box Sunbelt Granola Bars – $2.29, used $1/1 printable – $1.29 after coupon

1 Clif Mojo Bar – $1.25, used Free e-coupon – Free after coupon

Total after coupons: $15.47

Aldi Trip

Aldi

2 bags Mini Cucumbers – $1.49 each

1 bag Frozen Chicken Breasts – $5.99

1 Half & Half – $1.59

2 pkg Frozen Broccoli – $0.95 each

2 bags Frozen Peas – $0.79 each

1 pkg MooTubes – $1.55

1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $1.19

1 pkg Snack Crackers – $1.49

1 pint Blueberries – $1.69

1 Grape Jelly – $1.65

1 pkg Sausage – $1.89

1 bag Avocados – $3.79

1 loaf Bread – $0.89

1 Unsweetened Applesauce – $1.95

1 bag Potatoes – $1.99

1 bag Spinach – $1.39

1 box Fruit Squeezies – $1.49

1 gallon Milk – $1.49

1 canister Oats – $2.59

1 dozen Eggs – $0.58

1 bag Roma Tomatoes – $1.29

Total: $40.95

Total for both stores: $56.42

Menu Plan for This Week

Breakfasts

Oatmeal, Cereal, Eggs, Toast, Fruit

Lunches

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Tossed Salad Bar, Baked Potatoes, Cheese/Crackers/Fruit, Cheese Quesadillas, Leftovers

Dinners

Southwestern Roll-ups, Steamed Peas

Homemade Pizza, Breadsticks, Steamed Broccoli

Meat Potato Quiche, Fruit Salad

Memorial Day Grill Out (We are having our small group over and everyone is bringing their own meat to grill and a side dish. I’ll be doing hamburgers and cookies.)

Pancakes, Eggs, Sausage

Taco Salad Bar

Dinner at my parents house

Are you willing to give up what’s making you sick?

Want to know more about the Discipleship Program I’m always talking about? In this episode, I bring on our pastor to share more about why he started the program, some of the key truths in it, and how it has impacted Jesse’s life and my life!

Missed previous episodes of The Crystal Paine show? You can listen to them here.

Thank you to @sarahmaewrites for this truth bomb quote.

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

Three years ago, I was sitting at a session in our church’s Discipleship Program and I heard our pastor ask this question and I almost started crying right on the spot.

I knew I was unhealthy. I knew something wasn’t right right. But I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it.

But in faith, I said, “Yes!” Whatever it took. Whatever it meant. I wanted to get well.

I didn’t know what that “yes” was going to cost me. How I was going to have to let go of years of unhealthy patterns, unhealthy behaviors, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and codependent relationships.

But I’m here to tell you it was all worth it. It was hard. It was painful. And it changed my life.

(A photo I took from the most recent women’s Discipleship Retreat.)

(A page from my Discipleship Curriculum book.)

This is my third year of being in this intensive Discipleship Program at our church. And I am a completely different person.

I don’t live in bondage to insecurity and fear. I don’t need the approval of others to feel validated. I’ve stopped believing so many lies and have replaced them with truths.

I no longer need to impress people or exhaust myself trying to get people to like me. And I have begun to walk in the immense freedom that comes when you live as loved.

And I stand here gently whispering to anyone who feels like I felt three years ago, “Do you want to get well?”

On today’s podcast episode, I’m honored to have our pastor on to share more about his story, what prompted him to start this Discipleship Program over 7 years ago, and some of the life-changing truths Jesse and I have learned in it.

If you’ve ever wondered more about this program I’ve mentioned OR you are just feeling stuck, lethargic, and emotionally unhealthy, please do not miss this episode!

In This Episode:

[00:25] – Welcome back to the Crystal Paine Show! I give a little backstory about today’s guest, our pastor Eric Hoffman.

[03:37] – The first six months after we moved were a low point for Jesse. He struggled to find his worth outside of his work.

[06:36] – Being part of the Discipleship Program at our church is truly what God used to radically shift his perspective and understanding of God. It also helped him uncover and discover his giftings and the way he is wired.

[08:29] -I share how I was very reluctant to sign up for the Discipleship Program and talk about how exhausting and hard it was for me to go through it the first year. And yet, ultimately, it ended up changing my life in powerful ways. And then, Jesse and I have both had the opportunity to lead small groups through the program the last few years.

[10:36] – Eric takes us back to his less-compassionate days, and explains what brought him to where he is today.

[14:08] – We hear a story about Eric’s conversation with a friend in a coffee shop.

[16:12] – How did Eric manage to keep living out of the truths of what he had learned in day-to-day life?

[19:11] – I talk about how much the program has changed not only my life, but also those of the women I’ve gotten to walk through it with.

[22:37] – What are some first steps that people can take to get out of living in a rut? Eric shares a lot of practical tools and resources here.

[32:54] – Eric leaves us with a great idea of something that he and his wife do with their kids at the dinner table to teach them how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

Links and Resources:

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player we’ll include in the show notes of each episode. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission — at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

Why I Stopped Drinking Coffee

I stopped drinking coffee a couple years ago and it totally changed my life in unexpected ways!!

I mentioned that I no longer drink coffee on Instagram Stories recently. And because I’ve gotten SO many questions about it since then, I decided it was high time I write a post about my journey with quitting coffee!

Why I stopped drinking coffee

Let’s be clear. This is not something I ever wanted to do and I never ever dreamed I’d be a non-coffee drinker!

{So there’s still hope for all you coffee drinkers out there who would like to try giving up caffeine but can’t imagine a world without your coffee!}

I started working with a nutritionist in August 2016 in hopes of clearing up my eczema and acne, and one of the first things he told me was that I had to stop drinking coffee.

I immediately replied to him and said, “Hold up. I’ll do anything else that you say, but I can not give up my coffee.”

He told me to just give it a try, trust him, and see what happens. So I did (reluctantly).

Giving up coffee wasn’t easy

Prior to that I had been drinking two BIG cups of coffee every single day for a really long time — and even three cups on the really rough days. And let me tell you, it was really, really hard to think of giving it up.

I ended up deciding to stop drinking coffee cold turkey, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that method. I started drinking a gallon of water every day, and I was also doing a cleanse at the time — eating only greens and then slowly adding foods back in.

The first 8 days were awful. I had a horrible headache and I craved coffee like crazy. I missed it SO much.

Mostly, though, I missed the routine of my morning coffee. I had a ritual of getting up and pouring my cup of coffee. I didn’t know what to do without having that. I loved savoring my morning over a cup of coffee. It was something that was really cathartic for me.

Because of not being able to drink coffee and having such a horrible headache, I was extremely lethargic and all I wanted to do was sleep nonstop. I was sleeping about 10 hours every night in the beginning (which is a lot more than normal for me, since I typically only need about 7 hours for a really good night’s rest.)

But you know what was happening? My body was finally trying to get caught up on all the sleep I had missed because my body was so dependent on coffee for so many years!

I didn’t even realize this until I stopped drinking coffee, but I had been masking my exhaustion and lack of energy with caffeine.

How giving up coffee was life-changing for me

It did take a few months for me to stop craving coffee. (And honestly, every once in a while — even after two years — I still crave it! But it’s not worth the headache I immediately get even if I just have a few drops of caffeine!)

Over time, it got easier and easier, and I slowly started noticing significant health changes from not drinking coffee. And I learned I can actually survive without drinking coffee — something I never thought would be possible for me!

Giving up coffee was a radical choice for me, but the radical results and changes were totally worth it:

  • I finally felt rested. For the first time in months, I felt caught up on sleep. I was getting enough sleep every night and wasn’t getting tired in the middle of the day!
  • I was happier. I had SO much more energy and was way less irritable. All around, I was just in a much better mood every day.
  • It helped my anxiety. I didn’t realize giving up caffeine would help my anxiety, but this was a life-changing result I wasn’t expecting. I’ve now realized I am extremely sensitive to caffeine, and I can immediately feel the effects even if I have a tiny bit. Not drinking coffee has helped me feel calmer on a daily basis.
  • It improved my overall health. This — combined with drinking more water and eating better — really helped improve my overall physical health.

Also, it’s been really empowering for me to realize that I’m not dependent on coffee anymore and I have the energy to get through my days without it!

What I drink instead

Since the morning ritual was what I missed most about coffee, I had to replace those habits so that I could still enjoy waking up and savoring a hot beverage first thing in the morning.

Because I’m highly sensitive to caffeine, I don’t drink caffeinated teas. So I’ve replaced my cup of coffee with a huge cup of strong herbal tea. I typically use two bags of tea so that it’s super strong, I add lots of cream (just like I did when I drank coffee), and I add honey to sweeten it.

This strong cup of herbal tea with lots of cream and honey has become a great alternative for me without sacrificing my morning ritual.

If you’re looking for some tea ideas, you can check out my favorite Decaf Chai Latte recipe or this list of my favorite decaf teas to drink.

This Week’s $70 Grocery Budget (+ our menu plan!)

I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.).

For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here.

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and we will be compensated if you click through and sign up. Read our disclosure policy here.

I was excited about the Buy 5, Get $5 Off Sale that Kroger was running this week! Barbecue Sauce for $0.49 — no coupon needed? Sign me up!

I was sad to find that my store was completely sold out of the Pancake Mix that was on sale for just $0.99. But I still have three boxes of pancake mix that I got on sale/marked down, so I can totally wait for another sale!

Here’s what I got at Kroger on Tuesday (I especially excited to finally find another markdown on eggs again!):

Kroger Shopping Trip #1:

  • Chex cereal — marked down to $0.69
  • 5 dozen cage-free brown eggs — marked down to $0.99 each
  • 2 Moose Tracks yogurt — marked down to $0.25 each
  • 2 Simple Truth yogurts — marked down to $0.49 each
  • Simple Truth Organic Maple Syrup — $3.99, used $1/1 Kroger digital coupon = $2.99
  • 2 boxes Kroger Raisin Bran — $1.49 each
  • Hillshire Farm ham — marked down to $2.19
  • Hillshire Farm brats — marked down to $1.49 each
  • 3 Bountiful Salad Kits — marked down to $1 each
  • 2 pounds Private Selection Ground Beef — marked down to $3.79 each
  • 1 bag of onions — marked down to $0.99
  • Vitamin D milk — $2.69
  • Huggies baby wipes — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $0.50/1 Kroger digital coupon = $0.49
  • 2 bottles Kraft barbecue sauce — $0.49 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • Suave Kids’ Shampoo — $1.99 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $1/1 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99
  • 2 Speedstick deodorant — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • Sara Lee whole wheat bread — $1.49 when you buy 5 participating items
  • Tropicana Probiotic — marked down to $1.29
  • Bear Naked Granola — $2.49 when you buy 5 participating items, used $3/1 Kroger digital coupon = free after coupon
  • Stayfree pads — $1.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $2/2 Kroger digital coupon = $0.99 after coupon
  • Total with tax: $44.06

cookies

Need an end of year Teacher Gift? Here’s a great idea!

Asheritah wrote in and said: “I made your chocolate chip cookies today for my preschooler to take to school. They’re DELICIOUS! I feel like I’m #winning at this mom thing… at least for a nanosecond out of my day.” (By the way, here’s the free label she used.)

a photo of Aldi

Did you see my post on 5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Aldi?

By the way, the marked down Lentil Salad I got above was kind of blah and I wouldn’t buy it again.

I was super stoked that Kroger had a weekend sale on butter! We had just ran out of the butter I bought in the last sale!

Did you get your free Core Hydration Water at Kroger?

Kroger Shopping Trip #2:

family fun at Sonic

We kicked off 100 Days of Summer Fun on Saturday with walking to Sonic. Our goal is to do some simple family fun activity every day for the next 100 days.

If you want to join us, you can follow along with my Instagram stories where I’ll be documenting what we do each day.

(And if you want to join us, I’d love for you to share your family fun on Instagram or Facebook and tag me (@themoneysavingmom) and use the hashtag #100DaysofSummerFun.)

What We Ate This Past Week

Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand.

This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate.

Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here.

Our Menu Plan

Breakfasts:

  • Cereal, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Toast

Lunches:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Carrots, Oranges, Salads, Leftovers, Cookies

Snacks:

  • Fruit, Peppers, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Hard Boiled Eggs

Dinners:

  • Sunday — Leftover ziti, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, salad, peas
  • Monday — Leftovers (We apparently made way too much for when we had guests over on Saturday night! Hey, at least it meant I got two nights off from cooking!)
  • Tuesday — Corn bread, ground beef with tomatoes and onions, fruit
  • Wednesday — Leftover corn bread with chili and cheese
  • Thursday — KFC
  • Friday — Breakfast for dinner: pancakes, sausage, fruit
  • Saturday — Leftover pancakes and sausage, frozen pizza + we walked to Sonic and the kids got drinks and chili dogs

Grocery Budget Totals

Total spent on groceries: $68.13

Cashback earned this week: 136 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards + $0.20 for submitting my receipt to iBotta rewards.