If you have an Ebates account, you may have noticed something new in the banner area –
Ebates is now Rakuten
Why Did Ebates Change its Name?
According to the Ebates/Rakuten website, “taking the Rakuten name most accurately reflects who we are today: a company that gives you all the Cash Back you’re used to, with even more opportunities to save.”
Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner!
Disclosure: This post contain a referral link, which means I’ll be receive a monetary bonus should you choose to sign up. For more information on my policies and disclosures, visit this page.
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten is a Japanese marketing company that acquired Ebates in 2014, but it wasn’t until the 2019 Superbowl that they began to really publicize the merge.
Rakuten itself was originally Buy.com (founded in 1997) but they were then bought out by the Japanese company in 2010 as an attempt to enter the American market. They actually became a very close competitor with Amazon before the buy out!
Not only that, but if you were someone who made money selling on Ebay around 2008, you may very well remember Buy.com. They formed a partnership with Ebay and quickly became their top seller, but were not charged listing fees – something that angered a lot of independent sellers.
Maybe this is my nerdy side coming out, but I find the growth of this company to be fascinating (all the more with their Ebates merge, too!)
How do You Pronounce Rakuten?
It’s certainly not as easy to say as Ebates, but it’s still just as easy to use!
If you’re new to Ebates (or Rakuten), it’s a site that allows you to earn cash back if you click through their links before shopping. Even better, they’ve recently added an “in-store” option!
The best part is that you don’t have to do anything special, you just click through and shop like you normally would.
How to Sign Up for Rakuten
First, create an account by clicking HERE! By signing up through this link, you’ll earn an automatic $10 after your first $25+ shopping trip – not bad for 30 seconds of work, yeah?
How Does Rakuten Work?
Rakuten incentivizes shoppers to go through their platform by offering a certain percentage back on their purchase. While this may seem nonsensical on the surface, it’s actually a win-win for everyone.
A customer may not be set on buying anything today, until they see that the shop is offering 8% back through Rakuten today only – a win for the shop as the buyer is now all the more eager to buy.
Then not only does the buyer earn that 8% back, but Rakuten will get a small commission from the shop as well.
If you know ahead of time that you’ll be shopping at a certain retailer, be on the lookout for discounted gift cards through sites like Raise.com. Even if you don’t do a lot of online shopping, be sure to check out Raise.com – if you know you spend money on a regular basis somewhere (like a certain gas station!), why not buy gift cards for yourself and save even more?
For example, I recently purchased a $50 Kohl’s gift card for $41.90. Then I made a purchase through Rakuten for $53, using mainly that gift card and earning myself a nice $4.24 back. So instead of spending the full $53, I’m actually only looking at a total spent of $37.66.
Just check out the bottom of the Rakuten homepage to download. This way you don’t even have to worry about going through the site first when you’re browsing your favorite shopping site – seriously, could it get any easier to make money with this?
Just check out the footer on their homepage for more information, but basically it allows you to earn even MORE cash back (typically an additional 3%). So in my above gift card example, if I used my Rakuten card, I could’ve only spent $36.07 on a $53 purchase. LOVE IT!
In-Store Shopping with Rakuten
Something else you can do to make even more money back is to choose to “pick up in-store” while still shopping online. This is especially great if you’re prone to impulse purchases at your favorite store or if you want to save time when running errands. Not only will you earn that cash back you wouldn’t otherwise, but you can run in, pick up your stuff, and get on your way!
Coupon Codes with Rakuten
Another great thing about Rakuten is that you can combine the cash back you’re earning with any coupons available. They even have coupon codes right there for you – no need to hunt down a mailer you got or sift through e-mails. It’s especially easy if you’re using the mobile app or the browser extension.
How to Refer Friends to Rakuten
Finally, you can of course refer your friends to Rakuten. By just referring THREE friends, you can earn $75! How awesome is that?
Rakuten Proof of Payment
Just in case you’re still not totally sold on Rakuten, check out just how much money I would have otherwise lost out on last quarter were it not for shopping with this cash back app:
So to re-cap:
Rakuten membership is free.
There’s no limit to how much Cash Back you can earn.
There are no rebate forms to mail in or points to count— they just send you your Cash Back, no strings attached.
Making your own DIY worm farm is easy, but it’s definitely one of those things that you’ll either be super into…or not at all. I mean, let’s be honest – worms aren’t exactly cute and cuddly.
Worm farming, or vermiculture for the fancy among us, is a great way to reduce waste, but there are many other benefits, depending on how far you want to take it. It may be a weird way to save money, but it’s certainly a fun one!
Benefits of Worm Farming
First, when your wriggly friends break down your kitchen waste, they are eating up stuff that would otherwise take up space at the landfill while decomposing. As minimal as it may be, it all adds up over time!
Your worm farm will also be amazing for those of you are into gardening on a budget. Not only will the castings be great to mix in (no having to actually buy compost!) but the liquid “tea” they generate is one of the best fertilizers you can find…and it’ll cost you nothing to keep it going!
Another benefit is that it’s a great way to teach your children to care about the environment and about those around them. While not all kids will be into worm farming, let’s be real – most will be rather excited about it! Plus worm farming is easy to set up and care for, making it a great project for even the youngest among us.
What You Need for a Worm Farm
There are many (MANY) different wants to DIY a worm farm, but the route we went requires the following:
5 gallon tote with lid
Hot glue gun
X-Acto Knife or box cutter
Heat gun (not completely necessary but will definitely make cutting the tote easier!)
Shredded newspaper – about a Sunday’s edition worth – soaked in water and wrung out
Worms – check your local resale sites on Facebook or Craigslist to find ’em. You’d be surprised how common vermiculture is!
Where to Keep Your Worm Farm
Before you start building your worm habitat, decide on where you’ll keep the critters. Do *NOT* plan to keep them outside!! A warm, dry, dark environment is best – like your basement – but anywhere out of direct sunlight that’ll stay 40 – 80 F (4 – 27 C) will be fine. They tend to generate a lot of their own heat as they break down their food, so it’s exceptionally important you keep them somewhere relatively cool, though obviously not so cold they’ll freeze.
How to DIY a Worm Farm
Once you have your ideal location set, it’s time to get building!
First, if you have a heat gun, use it to warm up the area of your tote lid you’ll be cutting. It really does make a difference in getting that center cut out:
Then use that center cut out to trace and cut out screen material big enough to cover the area you just cut out. From there you’ll hot glue that screen onto the topof the lid. I then used duct tape to secure it all the better – again done on TOP the lid.
Originally I went the route of just drilling holes into the lid and that was fine…until my wriggly friends started to wriggle their way out of the nice home I built them! So rude, right? Supposedly the worms won’t do that if you have a nice environment for them, but uh…no. Heh trust me, the screen is the way to go!
You can also drill and insert a spigot into the bottom to drain some of the liquid that’ll accumulate, but I just make sure to monitor the dampness every few days and will add shredded newspaper or cardboard as needed.
What to Put In Your Worm Farm
When you’re first adding your worms, you can start with whatever dirt they’ve come in and then use wet, shredded newspaper and cardboard – be sure to wring it out first as you want it wet, but no where near dripping. Fill your tote about half full with the shreds and make sure it’s fluffed up enough for the worms to move freely and have plenty of oxygen.
There’s no need to add additional dirt, yard waste, etc. In fact, it’s safer to avoid ever doing that, as you never know what sort of contaminants might be there.
You can then go ahead and add your worms, but wait a couple days before adding in any food.
What to Feed Worms
Fortunately worms aren’t too picky when it comes to food, though mine are certainly big fans of moldy tomatoes (yum…)
You’ll want to avoid meat or highly acidic foods, like onions and citrus. Also try to avoid going overboard on the coffee grounds.
Your worms will thrive best when given a 2:1 ratio of pounds of worms to daily pounds of food, but this may vary a bit. It’s best to start off with food in one corner and then monitor it to see how fast it goes. As that corner starts to dissipate, put another serving in another corner. This helps keeps the worms moving and keeps the waste well circulated.
Should you start seeing gnats or other flying friends, cut back on the food a bit and/or loosely place a piece of dry cardboard in the bin on top of the papers/waste.
As they begin to generate those castings, feel free to scoop it out and add it to your garden or indoor plants. Eventually you may find your worm friends have reproduced so much that they need a new home – this can be a great way to earn some extra cash from home or you can create a second home if your garden is in need!
Do you have any questions about DIY’ing your own worm farm?
I’m so excited to share my experience with hosting our first Chuck E Cheese birthday party! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I can’t say I wasn’t worried about how this party would go down, but it was even better than I could have expected.
It’s important to note here that I’m in no way affiliated with Chuck E Cheese nor am I receiving anything in return for this post. It’s simply an experience worth sharing with other mommas in need of party planning help!
How does a Chuck E Cheese birthday party work?
When my daughter announced she wanted to hold her 4th birthday at Chuck E Cheese, my frugal brain immediately went to the cost. So I went on the Chuck E Cheese website and was pleasantly surprised by the affordable options. Even when we go the party-at-home-DIY-route (like we did for our Dr. Seuss birthday party!) there’s still the stress and time planning it all.
I truly love to throw parties, but not necessarily during the cold days of February, which happens to be my daughter’s birthday month. So this time I handed over the party planning reigns and here’s what happened…
Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review
What’s the schedule like?
We arrived at Chuck E Cheese about 15 minutes before the party was set to start. Everything was set up in the back already and our host greeted us. She handed over a bag of play passes as well as a birthday bracelet for my sweet birthday girl.
Our host then went over our order (we opted for extra pizzas and drinks for the adults). From there, she went over the schedule, which looked like this:
12pm – party starts, kids play
12:45pm – pizza time! Our host served the children and made sure they all got what they needed.
After pizza, Chuck E himself came out to dance with the kids. We then sang “Happy Birthday” while the host cut and distributed the cake. Since we got the Mega Super Star package, it also included Dippin’ Dots (yum!!)
From there, it would’ve been gift time, but we nixed that to do gifts at home.
After cake, it was ticket blaster time! My daughter wasn’t too keen on it, so her big brother stepped in.
Do they have to do the ticket blaster?
Our host was kind enough to show my daughter how the ticket blaster worked, but even then, my daughter wasn’t interested. My 5yr old son was all about it, though, so he stepped up to get those tickets. That said, there was also the option to skip the ticket blaster and simply collect 200 tickets (plus her 1000 bonus tickets as a part of the party package).
After the ticket blaster, the kids are then welcome to go back to playing.
Can you bring your own cake to a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
Absolutely! While Chuck E Cheese offers a number of gorgeous cake options, you can also bring in your own cake and ice cream.
Do you tip for a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
I’ve actually reached out to Chuck E Cheese to see if they have a policy/common practice on this. While I in no way felt pressured to tip, there’s no doubt our hostess deserved it! Our total party cost was $300, on which we tipped $40. This might seem like a bit much to some (like my husband…hehe) but I’ve worked in food service before and the tip was well earned.
Is the Mega Super Star package worth it?
It really, really is. It was so nice to not have to worry about goody bags or ice cream, plus the unlimited play for the 2 hours really helped parents better enjoy the experience and not worry about watching (or having to re-up!) their child’s play points. I also love that the goody bags allow for every child to leave with something, regardless of how many tickets they earned.
What happens if you have no-shows?
Sure enough, on the day of the party we had a couple children who suddenly couldn’t make it. Luckily Chuck E Cheese offers a 2-child no-show policy so we weren’t charged for the absent children.
The Easiest Birthday Party Ever
Overall, I truly could not have been happier with the whole experience. I did EVERYTHING online on my own schedule and it was the smoothest, most relaxed party I’ve had. Frankly, I’m considering hosting my own next birthday party there – they do have beer, after all! 😉
Have you had a Chuck E Cheese birthday party experience?
Would love for you to comment below and share your thoughts!
I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his idea on single-use items; there are a lot of really odd, single-use kitchen gadgets out there that might seem cool at first but will honestly just take up space and you’ll end up selling them at a garage sale and all you’ll have is .50 cents and a small pile of regret.
That said, there are some really cool items that fill a niche role but do it so well – or can be used for other things – that they’re absolutely worth having in your kitchen, pantry, or in your grill kit.
Amazon is a fantastic resource for cheap prices and lightning-fast shipping, but Its catalog has gotten incredibly vast over the years, so shopping for that perfect item is a slog. We’ve put together a list of 10 fun, useful, and best-of-all cheap kitchen gadgets that will delight anyone who rules the roaster in their household.
10 Must-Have Single Use Kitchen Gadgets for Under $20
Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts my recommendations or the cost to you.
Our son LOVES buttered toast but for real, cold butter is a substance that defies physics and destroys all bread it touches. This knife fixes that problem by allowing you to cut razor-thin slices, fun spirals, or spaghetti-esque noodles of butter, straight from the fridge!
My husband is Italian, so we eat a lot of pasta during the week, but my husband is also absent-minded, so we clean up a lot of boiled-over pasta water during the week, too. This silicone lid sits on top of your pot in lieu of your traditional lid. It allows steam and bubbles to escape without boiling over and covering your stove or putting out your burners. They’re also adorable and can help strain pasta as well!
If you don’t drink wine, you know someone who does. I personally am not fond of digging around in the utensils drawer for the corkscrew and then trying to stuff the cork back into the bottle without sending it spiraling down into the wine itself and then having to Google if drinking cork-wine will kill me. This set has a foil cutter, a corkscrew, an aerator spout, a stopper, and even a drip ring, if you’re messy. It’s all stored in a convenient, cute wine-bottle shaped spy kit. How fun is that?
We had a small air fryer and we hated it – it just wasn’t big enough for anything useful. We got this particular air fryer for Christmas and it’s AMAZING. Food comes out crispy, it cooks quickly and with minimal oil, and it doesn’t take up much space on the counter. My husband uses it at least 4 times a week for dinner, and I love it because I can toss some hashbrowns or bacon into it for breakfast and go get ready while they cook perfectly. We have the manual one which is a dream, but there’s a digital one as well with more settings, if you’re into that.
Wire brushes are, while commonplace in grill-cleaning kits, very much not ideal for the task. The shards of wire can seriously hurt someone if they ingest them and it’s more common than you think. This brass – well it’s not a ring exactly, but it’s definitely a shape – cuts through stuck-on food and carbon extremely well and can fit nearly any standard grate-spacing, without the fear of metal shavings in your burgers.
Ice cream is, like revenge, a dish best served cold. This makes it fun and delicious, but also a pain in the wrist to scoop efficiently without flinging it all over your kitchen. This particular heat-conducting scoop is leagues above the traditional scoop with the little level that dishes out ice cream. Heat from your hand travels into the spoon and cuts through the icy treat and the heavy-duty utensil will stand up against even the coldest, hardest-packed ice cream possible.
Finding a place to put your spoon isn’t a difficult task, but this cute, fun utensil rest really makes a “splash”. With its vibrant color and deep grooves, it should keep a handle on any size spoon you need to set down for a moment.
The cutest things often come in small packages, and this little hot dog …dog… is proof of that. Sometimes it only takes a little bit of fun to encourage kids to eat their dinner, and this cutter makes small enough pieces for little hands and then holds them in place. Bonus doggie dish for ketchup or mustard dipping!
Look, nobody is going to argue that pizza is the best but sometimes the cheesy pie is difficult to cut and serve without losing all your toppings. This pizza cutter gives you ultimate control, cleans up quickly and easily, and you can use it on anything that needs sliced. I use it on my kids’ pancakes in the morning, on grilled cheese, and quesadillas and while it seems such a simple thing, it really does make a big difference!
Do you have any single-task or highly specialized kitchen gadgets that you’ve found you simply can’t do without? Let me know and I’ll add them to this list!
Looking for meal ideas that don’t require an oven? I certainly was this summer when my oven stopped working not once, not twice, but THREE times (seriously don’tever buy Frigidaire products!!)
Luckily my misfortune can be to your benefit as I’ve since compiled some of the best oven-free recipes I used when we had to cook without an oven.
Now maybe you’re thinking “Hello, why not just use your slow cooker all week?” Heh well I kid you not – both our slow cooker and our grill bit the dust during this same week. Needless to say our meal plan did NOT work out accordingly.
Fortunately we did still have an air fryer, our stove top, and our garden fire pit to work with. So without further ado, here are some of our favorite recipes from the “no oven” week.
Oven-Free Recipe Ideas
Of course salads and the like are always an option when it’s too hot to cook in the oven or you just can’t/don’t want to. That said, after a few days, you’ll have to get creative with your salads or you’ll end up burnt out right quick.
Here are a few ideas as to how to freshen up your salads so you can eat healthy without feeling like a goat:
Taco Salads are always a good option! Make it a fun dinner and serve it taco bar style so everyone can pick and choose their own toppings.
Macaroni salad is delicious and if you throw in some ham, it’s a full meal in one bowl!
Chicken or tuna salad are always easy and you can make ’em extra healthy by using lettuce leaves instead of bread.
BLT salads are a staple in our family. We make an easy dressing of mayo + hot sauce and toss that with some bacon, tomatoes, spinach, and avocado. Yum!!
Spiralized Greek Salad with Rosemary Chicken
This salad is not only good for you, it’s super easy to make. You’re basically chopping veggies and grilling chicken. If you don’t have rosemary essential oil, you can always substitute the oil with 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary.
You could also consider cooking up breakfast for dinner. While you can certainly go the sweet route of pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal jars, there are simple ways to mix it up and have a savory breakfast for dinner.
Cornbread Waffle Tacos
This breakfast-for-dinner recipe can be done in a number of different ways, but I especially loved this recipe from Lexis Rose. Such an easy dinner, the whole family can have fun with it!
If cooking outdoors is an option, use this as an opportunity to cook up a bunch of meat for the week so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your week!
This is a throwback to my days in the Girl Scouts, but foil packs make for a great meal! This is a fun one that again you can tweak to suit your family’s needs – again make it fun and let everyone choose their own ingredients! Personally I love to put about 1/2lb of hamburger, 1/2 can of sweet corn, a few potatoes, and season to taste. It takes about 15 minutes to cook and it’s absolutely one of my most favorite dinners!
Kielbasa and Cabbage
If you have a dutch oven, this is a great one to cook either on your stovetop or on the grill! Chop up a head of cabbage, one onion, a couple gloves of garlic, and add to the dutch oven with two packs of Polish sausage. Let simmer for about an hour or until the veggies are soft. Add in a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, a tablespoon of spicy mustard, and salt to taste. So good!!
Of course you also always put your trusty slow cooker to use!
Chicken Tikki Masala
We’re huge fans of Indian food at our house, but I love this recipe because it’s not only done in a slow cooker, but it’s a “lighter” version of traditional Tikki Masala in that it uses greek yogurt instead of heavy cream.
Fry something and I’ll almost certainly eat it (except celery, celery is the devil). One of my favorites, though, is veggie tenpura. There’s certainly an art to it, but when done right, tenpura is absolute heaven – clouds and all!
Recipe: Available on Thanks for the Meal – Tenpura
Do you have any ideas on oven-free meal recipes?
I’d love for you to comment and/or link them below!