Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

Why Every Parent Needs an Air Fryer

We bought what I would consider to be a first generation air fryer a few years ago. It was fine, in that it cooked food crispy and but not particularly quickly, AND it was tiny. You could seriously only fit a couple of chicken tenders in it at a time, and it took 20 minutes to cook them, so it wasn’t efficient, either.

For Christmas this year, we tried again, only with a much bigger 5.7 quart fryer and it is a game changer. On busy nights it pairs perfectly with some frozen, not-the-healthiest-but-mama-doesn’t-have-time-for-kale food (lookin’ at you, Lean Cuisine pizza!)

On relaxing days, I spend hours experimenting with it, frying up all manner of things I wouldn’t have even considered frying.

Why Buy an Air Fryer

air fryer benefits

What is an air fryer?

At its core, an air fryer is a convection oven, using hot, circulating air to cook your food. The differences are nuanced but important, however.

An air fryer is typically shaped in more of a cone or dome, making the hot air circulate faster. This allows the outside of the food to crisp up while still cooking the inside quickly, preserving the juiciness while adding a perfect crunch. It also cooks faster than a countertop convection oven.

Most of the countertop ovens I looked at cost about twenty percent more than a similarly sized air fryer as well, and I’m not quite sure why. Convection ovens can typically go over the seemingly upper limit of 400 degrees that an air fryer has, but “frying” temperatures are usually between 350 and 400 degrees, so this isn’t surprising.

The best air fryers on the market have broad bottoms, allowing for a maximum amount of food cooked at once while still retaining the “frying” properties they boast. Because of this somewhat conical shape, they tend to take up less space than countertop ovens.

Benefits of Cooking with an Air Fryer

An air fryer cooks food faster than an oven would typically, and because it doesn’t require oil as a cooking medium, the food is lighter calorically and healthier in general.

As I mentioned earlier, you can toss in a layer of frozen chicken tenders, or fries, or whatever else you have on hand and dinner is ready in like 10 minutes.

On the model we have (Magic Chef), the timer is also effectively the “on” switch, so if you set it for 10 minutes, it shuts itself off in 10 minutes. There’s no “oh no I forgot the food” moments where you find that your salmon is blackened a bit more than you’d like; once the timer is up, it shuts off.

Fresh burgers come out juicy on the inside without flipping and splashing grease, and it reheats food more evenly (and pleasantly) than a microwave, though it takes longer.

Consider how microwave-reheated leftovers from a restaurant never taste as good, and you don’t typically want to preheat your oven just to heat up some chicken tenders. An air fryer is like your oven and your microwave had a baby and it was born being better than both of them (in certain applications). Reheating food is one of those applications!

Things to look for in an air fryer

Hands-down the most important attribute – and I cannot overstate this – is the size of the available cooking space. You can really only get the crispy benefits of the air fryer if your food isn’t stacked up on top of itself, so a single layer at a time is what you’re shooting for. This requires a decent sized basket so you’re able to cook quick, large batches. Ours is 5.7 quarts and it’s great for our family of 4, but if you have a bigger family or a party, something even larger might be ideal for you.

Ours is also manual, but there are digital ones out there as well that offer a wide range of preset cooking times and other fun add-ons.

Make sure you get a removable basket as well. Our first one didn’t have a removable basket, just this weird black insert that kinda held the food over the bottom of the fryer but not very well. The one we have now is a removable metal basked that clicks into the base and allows for total air circulation and for drippings to fall completely away from your food.

Finally, consider price when buying one. This isn’t a brand-new technology where higher price commands respect or the latest advancement. At its core, this is a very focused convection oven that fits on your countertop. Our Magic Chef was about $80, and it’s great. The only thing that you really need to pay extra for is a bigger model.

Why does every parent need an air fryer?

You’re still not convinced? Well, let’s recap then:

  • Cooks food quickly and crispy while retaining juiciness
  • Economical, especially if you’re considering buying a countertop oven
  • Heats faster, cooks quicker, and crisps up food better than an oven
  • Helps you make busy weeknight meals faster and easier
  • Reheats food so much better than a microwave
  • Healthier than deep frying by a significant amount
  • Doesn’t require oil to cook most foods

Obviously consider your needs before picking one up, but if you’re on the fence about buying an air fryer, I hope this helps you see that they’re not a fad kitchen gadget. It saves us time, calories, effort, and money and it will for you, too!

Do you already have an air fryer?

Comment below, I’d love to know YOUR favorite thing to cook in it!

What Happened to Ebates?

What Happened to Ebates?

If you have an Ebates account, you may have noticed something new in the banner area –

Ebates is now Rakuten

Ebates Is Becoming Rakuten banner

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.

I’ve actually been a part of Rakuten for nearly as long, as it’s one of the ways I make money with affiliate marketing.

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!

Is Rakuten legit?

Rakuten is truly such a great way to make money!

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.

Using Gift Cards with Rakuten

If you’re planning to do a lot of shopping, this is my top tip (it’s the best way to save during the holiday season!)

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.

More Rakuten Tips and Tricks

how to make money with rakuten

First, make sure you’ve got the Rakuten extension downloaded for your browser!

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?

Also, if you can behave when using credit cards, another “must do” with Rakuten is to have the Rakuten Cash Back Credit Card.

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!

Rakuten earnings

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?

It Pays to Share Refer a Friend earn $25 at Rakuten

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:

Proof of payment rakuten ebates

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.
  • Literally everyone should sign up!

Despite the new name, Rakuten is Ebates and there’s no catch here – so sign up today!

Worm Farming DIY

Worm Farming DIY

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
  • Screen material
  • 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

diy 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:

tote lid cut

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 top of the lid. I then used duct tape to secure it all the better – again done on TOP the lid.

tote lid cut with duct tape

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.

worm farm tote with cardboard

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?

Comment below, I’m happy to help!

10 Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets on Amazon for Under $20 

10 Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets on Amazon for Under $20 

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

single use items for the kitchen alton brown
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.

Spread Butter Easier

Butter Knife Magic

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!

Stop Boil Overs


Handy Lid

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!

Gift Idea for Wine Lover


Kato Wine Accessories Gift Set

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?

Air Fryer Accessories

Air Fryer Accessories

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.

Clean Grills Without the Fear of Metal Shards

The Grate Grill Scraper

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.

Scoop Ice Cream Easier


Heat Conducting Ice Cream Scoop

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.

Cute Spoon Rest

Splash Spoon Rest

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.

Cut Hot Dogs Quick

Dachshund-Shaped Hot Dog Cutter

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!

Grate Cheese with Ease

 Hedgehog Grater

This little guy will look great on any countertop, ready to zest citrus, grate some cheese, or shave some chocolate. He’s easy to clean, beautiful appearance, and BPA-free, and cute as a button!

Uses for a Pizza Cutter (besides cutting pizza!)

Ultimate Pizza Cutter

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!

The #1 App for Entertainers

The #1 App for Entertainers

In a world where more and more people find themselves driven to profit from their passions, it can be hard for live entertainers to find their break in an already inundated industry. So how do you make money from your genius when you’re still struggling to be seen?

Enter Damon Wayans, Jr. and Kristopher Jones – the two creatives behind the oh-so-amazing Special Guest App, a booking app that makes it simple to connect gigs with paid talent.

Special Guest App Review

Special Guest is a platform for talent to use to find gigs in a far easier manner than the traditional route (and best of all, it’s free!)

Entertainers and the like can create profiles within the app to showcase their talent and personality. Venues are then able to use the Special Guest App to search for talent based on things such as location, availability, price range, etc.

This means that anyone, anywhere can use Special Guest to hire live entertainment with just a few simple touches of their phone! From finding a guest speaker for your next podcast to hiring a magician for your child’s birthday, Special Guest makes it easier for everyone to connect.

One of the best parts (in my opinion) of Special Guest is that they handle the legal agreements, including cancellation policies. They have many other fantastic features, though, such as:

  • In-app messaging to reduce e-mail clutter
  • Easier to use discovery tool to help you narrow in on exactly the talent you need
  • Ratings and reviews of the entertainment so you can trust in your hiring decision
  • Facilitate payments on behalf of the venue so you don’t have to stress about how/when that check will be cutparty planning tip special guest app

This app is truly great all around, whether you’re looking to hire or be hired.

As a busy mom, it means a lot to have this app available should I need to hire a band for my friend’s wedding or a face painter for our school’s fun fair. But I don’t just support it because it makes my life easier! I love that it gives entertainers the virtual space to be seen. It’s so important to support each other as we work toward living lives on our terms and Special Guest helps to do just that.

Don’t just take my word for it, though! As I said, it’s FREE! So go check out Special Guest now and enjoy!