January 31, 2017

$5 GC Amazon from Microsoft Rewards

I just cashed out for a $5 Amazon Gift Card on Microsoft Rewards!!!  This is my first reward from them!  I've been signed up for a while, but hadn't made much progress earning points on it...then I realized I could make it my default search in my web browser (if anyone is interested, I could do a tutorial post on how I did that in Chrome) and then the points started piling up!  Apparently I search a lot! Haha!  If you're unfamiliar with Microsoft Rewards, formally Bing, check out our post:  Microsoft Rewards:  Earn Free Gift Cards Searching the Web!

January 19, 2017

Hollar Product Reviews for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

Hollar.com seems to have dollar store like stuff, but some are overstocks, etc, so they may cost a dollar or two, but be worth more/better quality and perfect for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  For instance when I ordered they had Gund and pro team branded stuffed "friends" for $1-$2.  They have limited number of some of the items, some things I bought are already sold out, but I’ll review them all, anyhow. I choose ordered from them as Swagbucks had a special with bonus points for ordering form them, so it only cost me a net of $2 (so, kinda like getting everything 80% off, so $0.40 or $0.20 a piece).  You have to order at least $10, free shipping on first order, and any order over $25.  I think if you sign up through this link (https://www.hollar.com/share/ywml52xj) we'll both get $2 credit at Hollar.  If anyone wants to do that, I'll save my credits to use toward OCC shoebox items myself.  Or, if you're on Swagbucks, check out if they have a bonus offer still going.

Hollar product reviews on items good for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Ty MLB Beanie Ballz-Cleveland Indians it was $2.   So cute!  It’s kinda a cross between a ball and a stuffed “friend”.  It even had “beans” in the bottom so it

January 17, 2017

January Item of the Month for OCC Shoeboxes ~ Hats, Gloves & Scarves

Operation Christmas Child Item of the Month for JanuarySamaritan's Purse has suggested items of the month for packing Operation Christmas Child, and for January that is Hats, gloves and scarves.

Now, many people are concerned about sending these items as they aren't sure if their boxes will be going to a country that seems cold to us like the Ukraine, or one that seems hot to us like Uganda.  There's a couple things to keep in mind about this:



  1. There are times of year in most countries that feel cold to those who live there.  We knew people who were missionaries in Chad, Africa, and the nationals sometimes got cold/sick in the "winter" season.
  2. I remember a story my dad tells about an exchange student who was visiting Ohio in summer from the Caribbean.  They were at a church softball

January 14, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 1/15/2017

I've really missed out on the after-Christmas clearances this year due to all the health issues in our family at the moment, so I'm thankful for some good deals I've gotten online for my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  This week's supplies came from Hollar.  

I ordered from them as Swagbucks had a special with bonus points for ordering form them, so it only cost me a net of $2.  You have to order at least $10, free shipping on first order, and any order over $25.  I think if you sign up through this link (https://www.hollar.com/share/ywml52xj) we'll both get $2 credit at Hollar.  If anyone wants to do that, I'll save my credits to use toward shoebox items myself.  Or, if you're on Swagbucks, check out if they have a bonus offer still going.





UPDATE to add:  I've written a Hollar Product Review on these items if you are interested in reading it.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $10

Refunds/rewards earned for shopping: $8

Added to stockpile:
You may be interested to know why We Include a Stuffed Animal in Each Operation Christmas Child Shoebox that we pack.

January 12, 2017

KIPP Brothers/Toys Product Reviews for Items to Pack in Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

I have been doing reviews on the Simply Shoeboxes Facebook page of some products I've bought online for my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I hoped to help people know what they're getting before they order, and thought I'd try to start doing blog posts of them, for those who may not be on Facebook.


We had ordered from Kipp Brothers years ago when packing OCC shoeboxes from a VBS offering at our church, and were happy with the items.  Now, like a decade later I looked them up online.  They have free shipping at $250.  I watched their Facebook page for a while, until I saw free shipping deal on $100 (+10% off, which was more manageable for my budget.  It has some items just by a dozen, but many come by 50 or a Gross (a dozen, dozens = 144). 

Note:  Links in this post were up to date at time of publishing. Some items may no longer be available.

Metal Stone Rings from Kipp Brothers review.  Bought for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Metal Stone Rings $16.95 for 36, so $0.47 a piece.  I really enjoyed having a ring or two like this as a child, so when I saw them I decided to send them in my 10-14 girl boxes.  They say

January 8, 2017

Example of What to Pack in an OCC Shoebox for 10-14 Boy - 2016

What to pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox for a 10 to 14 year old boy.



Here's an Operation Christmas Child shoebox my dad packed for a 10-14 boy this year.    This shoebox was 394 inches cubed, for comparison, a GO box is 306 inches cubed, so it's pretty close in size.   Here's one of the 10-14 boy shoeboxes he packed in 2015.  


If you'd like ideas for other ages be sure to check out my posts on boxes from this year for: Girl 2-4   Boy 2-4Girl 5-9Boy 5-9, & Girl 10-14.

NOTE:  Different countries have different restrictions on what can be packed in a shoebox due to customs, and 2016 is the last year for candy in the USA.  Be sure to check the guidelines from your national organization before packing!

What went into the shoebox gift:

  • Hygiene Supplies:

January 7, 2017

Kipp Brothers Toys for OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 1/7/2017

I decided maybe I should start back on my weekly blog post called "Shoebox Stockpile Saturday" of what I've added to my Operation Christmas Child stockpile lately via purchases, crafting, donations, etc.


I got my order from KIPP Brothers this week.  So exciting!  I now have enough of some of these items for a few years!  Mainly fun little bonus items.  UPDATE:  Here is a post I wrote about each of these items:  KIPP Brothers Toys for Operation Christmas Child Review.


I also stopped by Dollar General, and checked out the 70% off Christmas, but all I got was this door hanger, I thought it'd be fun for a child to shake/play with.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $91.63

Added to stockpile:
  • 1 jingle bell door hanger
  • 6 Harmonicas
  • 12 Wooden Yo-Yos
  • 12 Tote bags
  • 24 Whistles
  • 36 Metal stone Rings
  • 48 Turtle models 
  • 144 Mini dinosaurs
  • 144 Train Whistles
  • 144 Hoppy Frogs
  • 144 Stencil Rulers
Each Saturday Sarah shares our additions to our OCC stockpile.  You can see them all thru this link:  Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ Adding to Our Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Stockpile.

January 4, 2017

What Kind of Shoeboxes to Use for Packing OCC Shoebox Gifts

What kind of box to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox gift in
So, we all read about packing Operation Christmas Child "shoeboxes", but what exactly does that mean?  Should I use normal shoeboxes, boot boxes, plastic shoeboxes, GO Box, or will just a normal box do?  In the USA, Operation Christmas Child gives these guidelines on shoeboxes:
"Operation Christmas Child ...we prefer medium-sized shoeboxes, since more of these fit in our larger shipping containers, which helps us maximize your shipping donation. This also helps ensure children receive similar sized shoebox gifts at outreach events. We do accept and ship every shoebox we receive, regardless of size." (OCC Facebook page)

So, let's look at some of the options.

GO Box

(Theses are often available at local churches, Christian stores, etc.  You can also order

January 2, 2017

Example of What to Pack in an OCC Shoebox for 10-14 Year Old Girl - 2016

What to pack for a 10 to 14 year old girl in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.Here's a shoebox I packed for a 10-14 year old girl this year.    This shoebox was 363 inches cubed, for comparison, a GO box is 306 inches cubed, so it's pretty close in size.   Here's one of the 10-14 girl shoeboxes I packed in 2015.  


If you'd like ideas for other ages be sure to check out my posts on boxes from this year for: Girl 2-4 years,   Boy 2-4Girl 5-9Boy 5-9,  & Boy 10-14.

NOTE:  Different countries have different restrictions on what can be packed in a shoebox due to customs, and 2016 is the last year for candy in the USA.  Be sure to check the guidelines from your national organization before packing!

What went into the shoebox gift:

  • Hygiene Supplies:

January 1, 2017

Goals for 2017 OCC shoebox packing

Hi All!

So, this is more of a conversation post, then an informative one.  I thought it'd be interesting to share goals for this year's Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing.  Obviously the universal goal to make good shoeboxes for the children.  As a rule, we also try to pack a nice number and on a budget.  And we always put in school & hygiene supplies, a stuffed animal, and some other fun & practical stuff.  But the last few years I've been trying to focus on different ways I can improve the boxes.

Last year I thought it would be fun to pack 52 boxes...which would work out to the equivalent of 1 per week.  Mainly divided between 2-4 and 10-14 year old age group categories as those ages tend to get the least. Last year my main goal for improving the boxes was to be sure we had a good stock of a variety of small items to put in after the main things.  There were a number of reasons for this: 1) to not waste any space in the shoebox, why ship air?  2) One can fit more items into a shoebox, without compromising the size of the main items, or using a over-sized box.  3) If the child doesn't happen to like the main toy(s), there are more to pick from with mini card games, tops, mazes, etc.  4) If they want to share some of their items, they have more to share, can share the small items and have the joy of having something to give, and still keep the main items.

This year I think we'll stick to about the same number, it's a good number we can handle.  We'll probably try to donate a little more filler as well.  I think my main goals for improving the shoeboxes this year is:

  1.  WOW items.  Here in the USA, OCC asks that we start packing by choosing a "Wow" item. They suggest "Ideas include: Soccer ball with pump, Stuffed animal, Toys (puppets, trucks, etc.), Doll (baby, Barbie, etc.), Musical instrument, Outfit, Shoes" (source)  All of our boxes include stuffed animals or dolls and another toy, and sometimes an outfit.  So the "WOW" item is easily covered.  We always cover all the basic categories-hygiene, school, art, something to wear, etc. (you can see a sample of our packing lists here).  But this year I'd like try to work to make sure every item possible "wows" the child.  Things that might not normally seem "wow" worthy (although for some of these children in desperate situations I've heard stories of these being "wow" plain.)  For instance, for hygiene, I have an old embroidery machine, I'm thinking about digging it out and decorating the washcloths.  For school supplies-buying the lined notebooks on clearance after Back-to-School to get decorative patterms on the covers, or soft backed composition books with multiplication tables, etc. inside.  Make sure as many things as possible are bright, colorful, etc.
  2. I'm hoping to stretch my budget to be able to pack the same number of boxes, but build up my stock a little bit.  I'll still be giving fillers (explanation of that here), but sometimes you can get better deals buying in bulk (for instance you can see items I got at H & J Closeouts, or I bought like a gross of combs on Amazon).  Or when I stumble on a great deal (like I did with compasses and protractors at Office Max like 90% off) I want to be able to buy enough for a few years.  Especially as I live in a small town it can be hard to find clearance, and with a number of health issues in my family, especially being a caregiver for my grandmother, it's not uncommon for something to come up and not be able to do anything more than the essentials for life for a few weeks/months, and with a little "stock" that decreases the stress/pressure to hit every sale opportunity. That way I can, in the long run, afford more, higher quality items.  It takes up some room, and ties up some funds, but in the long run, I think it'll lead to better boxes.

So, does anyone else have goals for this year?

             
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