Shopping

When I was pregnant with baby Juliza, I had all these grandiose ideas about how I was going to do everything differently this time: All her clothes and bedding would be organic, I’d make all her baby food at home, and we’d use cloth diapers. Fast forward to my current days of chasing an active 18-month-old, and let’s just say that my expectations have become more realistic.

We use disposable diapers because we could never quite get the hang of reusables. For the most part, she eats what I eat, or she eats food and snacks designed for toddlers. And while I do my best to buy organic clothing and bedding when I can find it, most of her clothes are not. But there are a lot of ways to approach sustainability. One of them is to support products that are made in the U.S. 

How exactly is this sustainable? Well, products that are made domestically create less carbon emissions and require less energy overall than those made overseas and shipped here. There are stricter environmental controls here than many places overseas, as well. Plus, domestic production means jobs in the U.S. 

But how exactly do moms spot products made in the U.S.A.? Walmart sent me a few U.S.-made baby products to help me answer that question.

  
I was actually surprised by some of the products I received: a couple of Gerber sippy cups and baby food bowls, along with NUK baby bottles (assembled in U.S.) and a pacifier. So realistically, many of the products made by the brands you already know and trust for your kids are made or assembled in the U.S., specifically at the company’s manufacturing plant in Reedsburg, WI.

You can identify these products and others like it by looking for the “Made in USA” logo.

 
And that’s not all: Walmart has pledged to buy an additional $250 billion in American-made products yearly. This commitment has already led to the creation of new jobs, likely will create more. 

So when you’re shopping for baby, even if you can’t find organic, recycled, or otherwise eco-friendly products, support those products that are made here, because those are sustainable in their own way too. You can find many more of those products at Walmart.com , in addition to what’s available in store.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Disclosure: I am participating in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received a Sprint device to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

I swear, everyone in my house is tethered to our devices. Even baby Juliza knows how to swipe and pinch a screen on a smartphone. And since it appears that won’t be changing any time soon, I’ve promised myself that I’ll always try to stay ahead of the curve technologically, both for my own edification and so that I’ll always be able to monitor what my kids are doing online. So when I learned that Sprint was looking for mom ambassadors to test some of their newest devices and share our thoughts, I thought this would be a great opportunity to continue that education.

When I found out that the first I’d be testing would be the brand new LG G4? Suffice it to say I was excited.

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We’ve all seen the commercials. The G4 promises an advanced camera, far beyond what you’d expect from a smartphone, with great clarity and quality. But I’ll be honest: I’ve never really gotten into the Android platform beyond the basics, and it still felt really foreign to me. I knew that if there was anything that could convince me to finally dig in, it was a phone with a powerful camera.

But first, the basics.

I absolutely love the design of the G4. I have always loved the clean, sleek look of metal phones with little to no embellishments. But this has swayed my position quite a bit. The back of the G4 I received is made of black leather.

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I never would’ve thought a phone made with leather would make sense, but I love it! It is lightweight, and the curved back and soft leather feel comfortable in hand. This is the first smartphone I’ve ever used for which I didn’t feel the need to immediately put it in a case. It somehow feels both softer and more sturdy than a phone made of metal.

The size and clarity of the screen are amazing. The colors were bright and every pixel was beautifully sharp. The Android operating system feels cleaner and easier to understand that it was on some other Android phones I’ve used. There’s also an option to have the home screen display the bare minimum, for Android beginners. I didn’t use it, but it was nice to have that option.

Now, for the main event. That much-anticipated G4 camera.

Unlike many smartphone cameras, which are for the most part point and shoot, the G4 allows me to shoot in a few modes: Simple, Auto and Basic. Simple requires the least intervention from me. I just frame whatever I want to capture and touch the screen to take the photo. Baby Juliza shot this selfie (and a bunch of others) in Simple mode:

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Yes, I said baby Juliza shot this herself. That tells you how easy it is to use, because she’s barely 18 months old.

Auto is easy to use as well, but with a few more options, like turning on flash on and off, changing the size of the image (to square, for example), and the options to use a grid or voice commands to control the camera. To really test the camera, I took it along in place of my DSLR when my family and I went to the Georgia Aquarium a few weekends ago. It was crowded and many of the exhibits were pretty dark, so I’m impressed with the photos I was able to get under those conditions.

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The size of the screen and the placement of the camera also allowed me to get selfies with my whole family pretty easily, and this is usually a challenge.

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The final mode is manual. So you understand how impressive this is to me, I don’t even shoot in manual mode with my Nikon. I don’t quite trust my photographic abilities that much yet. The G4’s manual mode offers a crazy number of options and settings. You can control shutter speed, aperture, white balance, ISO settings, focus and more. This is actually easier to use than my DSLR because I can see how each setting change will affect the photo on screen before I take it. I haven’t fully explored what all it can do yet, but I did shoot these two photos in manual mode.

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I did OK, but clearly my manual camera skills need some work. I think this phone will really help me work on them.

Realistically, I will likely use the G4 camera instead of my DSLR in situations when carrying a big camera is inconvenient, because the quality of the photos is impressive. For me, that’s saying a lot.

The cons

I have only two complaints about the G4. It has a tendency to get hot sometimes. Like, really hot, so that it’s uncomfortable to hold. It doesn’t happen often, and I’m not sure if the heat is a product of battery-intensive apps or the temperature of the room I’m in. Still, when it happens, I have to put the phone down. If I’m in the middle of gaming (which I admit I do quite a bit), it can be a pain.

My other qualm is the incessant pop-up ads on the phone. Again, I’m not sure if these are a product of some app I downloaded, or if the capability came built into the phone, but I’ve noticed the popups since the day I started using the G4. They show up no matter what I’m doing on the phone or what app I’m using, and they are seriously annoying. They really change the experience of using the phone because they often pop up at inconvenient times, like when I’m starting a video or trying to play a game. This could honestly be a deal-breaker for some people, and it might be for me if I didn’t like the camera so much.

Phone Safety

Realistically, the phone is awesome. So awesome that it’s easy to be tempted to use it all the time. Even in situations where it isn’t safe to do so. And because Sprint understands that temptation, they’ve created Sprint Drive First, a free app for phones like the LG G4 with an awesome functionality: It sends all calls to voicemail and silences email and text alerts when a vehicle reaches 10mph. So if your teen is getting behind the wheel, the app will help keep them focused on the road. There are also new features like personal feedback and parenting mode that track miles driven and allow certain apps to be enabled or locked altogether.

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Also in the interest of driving safety, Sprint has started the Thumb Wars Campaign to discourage all drivers, but particularly teens, to quit texting and driving. This can literally be a matter of life and death. As scary as this sounds, while texting, a driver spends about 10% of their driving time outside of their lane. So it makes sense that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get involved in a crash. 23 times. Think about that for a second. But apparently, statistics alone aren’t enough to make American teens stop texting and driving, since 40% of them still report doing it. So Sprint has partnered with DoSomething.org for the Thumb Wars campaign.

So how does it work? Well, young people who sign up at ThumbWars.org receive two pairs of yellow anti-texting thumb socks. The second set is meant to be shared with a friend or loved one they know who texts and drives. They can then take a photo of themselves and their friend wearing the thumb socks and send it back to DoSomething.org . Simple concept, but hopefully engaging enough to work.

So what about you? What do you think of the LG G4, and what do you to stay safe while driving with the temptation of your smartphone nearby?

Check out the Sprint store locator to find a store near you, or find them on Facebook or Twitter.

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We’re smack dab in the middle of summer, but my daughter, so excited to be going to the fifth grade, has already presented me with her school supply list and started talking to me about what she’ll need. She’s used the same backpack for the past two school years, so this year, finding a new one is a priority. So when Walmart offered to send me a few backpacks to review, I was more than happy to oblige.

They offer a wide variety of backpacks at prices starting at less than $4. Here are my thoughts on the three I got to try.

No Boundaries Printed Canvas Buckle Flap Backpack

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As soon as I received the backpacks, my daughter claimed this one. It’s not hard to see why. It is super cute! The floral print is gorgeous and attention-grabbing. However, this is a soft canvas bag with cotton straps, so it’s not ideal for carrying heavy books. When we filled it with her typical school load: Large filled binder, a few books, a sweatshirt and a few other odds and ends, it became uncomfortable on her shoulders really quickly.

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Instead, she’s been using the backpack when she goes to gymnastics training to carry her extra clothes, snack and a few other small personal items. It has been perfect for that, and she says several of her teammates have asked where she got her bag. The snap on the main pocket did pop off after a few weeks, but the main compartment also has a pull-tie closure, so it’s still completely secure and usable. The price point is $18.88, and this one has been her favorite, by far.

Printed Backpack With Reinforced Bottom & Comfort Padding

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The second bag in the lineup is a more traditional style with a unique twist — the awesome printed fabric. If I had need for a backpack, the pattern alone would make this my pick. But the bag also has padded straps, which makes it a much better option for my daughter to use for school on an everyday basis. Packed with a typical school day load, the straps were still comfortable to wear and didn’t imprint in her shoulders like the softer canvas bag.

Her only complaint was that she wishes it had more pockets, both inside and out, to help her better organize her snack, water bottle, supplies, etc. There is one pocket on the inside, and one on the outside, but a few more would be welcome. The fabric is sturdy and seems like it would hold up well to daily use. The best part? This bags costs just $9.88. You really can’t beat that price.

Basic Front Pocket Backpack

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The final option is a small, 16″ basic backpack in solid gray with green trim — definitely function over form. Style wise, it would be my last choice, but it is clean and simple and still pretty nice to look at.

Priced at just $3.97, it is definitely more of an entry-level backpack. It is smaller than the other two bags, the fabric is thinner, and the straps were padded, but narrow. As a result, I think this would be better used for smaller kids who have less to carry each day, or used for recreational purposes. It has served us well to tote snacks, baby wipes and drinks when we go to the park. But it’s not so well-suited for anything much heavier than that. It appeared a bit strained when we filled it with all my daughters books, and I don’t think it would last more than a few weeks with daily use with a heavy load. However, it would be great for a child in preschool or kindergarten.

There are a ton of other backpack options available at Walmart — different sizes, price points and levels of quality. It shouldn’t be hard to find the right option for you or your child’s situation. My daughter is still looking for her perfect bag, but Walmart is the first place we’re going to look.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Fashion Project. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Over the last few years, I’ve become a bit obsessed with with fashion: The trends, the brands, how to incorporate both of those into my personal style (and budget), etc. I use fashion as a tool to help me feel my best, and I bet a lot of other women out there feel the same way. Unfortunately, I also I know a lot more about cancer than I would like, thanks to my daughter’s battle with leukemia when she was just 4 years old. I saw firsthand how the side-effects of cancer — severe bloating from steroids, pale skin, hair loss — can weigh on a person’s self confidence. So when I learned of a project that aims to do something about that through fashion, I couldn’t wait to share their cause with you.

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The mission of the Look Good Feel Better program is to help people who are fighting cancer also fight back against the changes to their appearance by offering free workshops that include lessons on cosmetics, skin and nail care, wigs, turbans, accessories and wardrobe. Well, they have partnered with Fashion Project, a new “thrift store” option that donates a portion of the profits from every item they sell to the donor’s charity of choice. So for example, if you had a designer handbag you wanted to donate to a regular thrift store, that handbag might end up on the shelf for only a few dollars. Great for the customer who finds it, but Fashion Project allows you to put that bag to greater use by reselling it for a price closer to what it’s worth, then donating up to 55% of the proceeds charity.

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So how exactly do these two organizations work together? Well, you can now shop the Look Good Feel Better boutique at FashionProject.com, which features clothing and accessories donated by members of the Look Good Feel Better and Fashion Project communities, along with celebrities and designers. So you can shop and donate women’s designer clothing and accessories in like-new condition to the boutique through June 7. More than 850 items have already been donated, and more than $4,000 has been raised for the Look Good Feel Better program.

What that means is you can find gorgeous clothing, shoes and accessories from brands like Vince Camuto, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Alice + Olivia and even Givenchy for up to 90% off, and your purchase will help women with cancer feel better about themselves throughout their battle. You can also donate clothes to the sale.

I genuinely cannot think of a more worthy cause or a better excuse to shop.

When my husband and I got married almost 12 years ago, we were young and broke. Which means that a lot of the fancy add-ons that usually come with weddings just didn’t happen for us — including a wedding photographer and expensive custom invitations. Thankfully, even back then, I had some graphic design skills, so I used a pre-made, print-at-home invitation kit to make our invitations. They turned out nice, but I still wish we could’ve gotten something more custom. Thanks to Walmart Stationery, now brides and grooms who are in a similar situation can create their own beautiful stationery without breaking their pockets.

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Walmart has partnered with Gartner Studios to offer a beautiful selection of wedding and bridal event invitations, along with a free online wedding planning tool. The collection includes everything from Save the Date cards to bachelorette party invitations and menu cards, and trust me when I say the designs are absolutely gorgeous! Plus, you can get a free sample kit so you can see the quality of the paper and printing firsthand.

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When you’re ready to place your order, the process is really easy to follow. Each template allows you to change the text, fonts and colors with a live preview of your changes. You can also choose from two types of paper: Signature Smooth Stock paper for $.99 per invitation, or Deluxe Eggshell Stock paper at $1.29 per invitation. Envelopes are included in the prices, and if you choose Deluxe Eggshell Stock Paper, you can choose to have rounded corners and the return address information printed on the envelopes.

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I got to walk through the customization process and receive some invitations of my own. I chose to customize a bachelorette party invitation to make it a birthday party invitation for my daughter. They turned out beautifully, and the paper is a great weight and quality. The colors are vivid and clear, and the design is gorgeous! Of course, I realized after the fact that I failed to catch an error when I was proofing the invites. The date reads “August 2th” instead of “August 2nd.”

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That is absolutely my fault and I should’ve caught it when I was proofing. So learn from my mistake: Check your invitations carefully before you have them printed.

Still, the process itself was relatively quick and easy, and the product is well worth the price, which is a mere fraction of what you’d pay a designer and custom printer to create unique invitations. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly solution for your wedding day, be sure to check out Walmart Stationery.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Shopping for Baby, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I shared that I was trying to break out of my habit of buying the same products over and over again by trying a few new baby products, courtesy of Walmart. There is beauty in being able to go to one store and get pretty much everything I need for baby Juliza, but I never know if I’m missing out on something just because I’d never thought to try it.

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Like these three:

Pull-Ups Learning Designs

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I didn’t think Juliza was quite ready for potty training, but it can’t hurt to start early, right? Pull-Ups were an invaluable tool in my husband’s and my arsenal when we were potty training our oldest daughter, but we hadn’t really thought about using them for Juliza yet. We got the Pull-Ups Learning Designs training pants in size 2T-3T, and they’re still a bit big on her. Which means that though they didn’t leak when she was wet, they did when she pooped. I’m sure this won’t be the case once she grows into them. Juliza was really captivated by the idea of pulling up her own diaper. She’s not quite effective at it yet, but it’s easy to see that she’s going to enjoy being able to take matters into her own hands — literally. These are going in the closet until she’s a little older, but I imagine they’ll be invaluable yet again.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Bedtime Wash and Lotion

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Though I hadn’t used their products in years, when I think of baby products, Johnson & Johnson is still one of the first brands that come to mind. I usually don’t personally buy them because I’m not a big fan of the ingredients list, but I know a lot of parents do. And I tried their baby bedtime lotion and wash a few times just so I could give an accurate review. The good? They work. They work well. The soap and lotion both smell ah-mazing, the lavender fragrance really does help calm baby at bedtime and they are really moisturizing. Still, in the future, I’ll stick with products with fewer, more natural ingredients.

Gerber Graduates Grabbers Pouches

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Juliza is at the stage when she really likes to feed herself. As in she’ll throw a tantrum if we try to feed her instead of giving her spoon. This is fun for her, but tends to be messy for me. For those days when I’m not in the mood for a mess, these Gerber Graduates Grabbers pouches are great. They are available in fun flavor combinations like Banana Blueberry and Apple, Pear & Peach, and while messes are possible, Juliza already has gotten the hang of squeezing the pouch into her mouth, and so everywhere else. I’m still leery of pouches with contents that I can’t see, so I’ll always, always check the expiration date. Still, she really likes these, so I’ll let her have her fun sometimes.

I’m really thankful for this little product testing experiment. I learned some things. For example, Huggies diapers really are great and worth the money. And they’ve spoiled me for using any other kind. Aveeno has a pretty safe ingredients list and it’s an effective moisturizer. And Juliza will likely be ready to potty train sooner than we thought. So going out of my shopping comfort zone has its perks. I may have to try this again for other types of products too.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

I’d be the first person to tell you that the green movement isn’t where it was a few years ago. “Eco-friendly” this and “organic” that was once on the forefront of many people’s minds, but the conversations have shifted a bit. I’d like to think it’s because so many people are now aware of the need for sustainability that it’s become a habit that they don’t talk about often (that’s definitely the case for my family). Still, for some people, the relative quiet nature of sustainability makes it somewhat invisible.

Walmart is working to change that.

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For several years now, the company has been actively working toward making the entire operation more sustainable, and a big part of that has been a push to get the companies that supply their products to do the same via their Sustainability Index. To find the companies that are acting on that push, look no further than the Walmart Sustainability Leaders Shop.

When you’re shopping at Walmart.com, this page makes it easier to find products made by companies that have scored as “best in class” in the Walmart Sustainability Index. Here’s a quick video that better explains the way it works.

Long story short, while you’re shopping at Walmart.com, look for products with this badge:

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There are more than 10,000 products available that are made by companies that meet the sustainability standards, and the badge makes it easier to find them. Plus, this is Walmart, so the prices will be affordable.

I’m really excited about this new badge, because I’m the type of shopper who looks for this type of information about the products I buy, especially online. I want to know if it’s organic, or recycled, or at least made by a company that is making sustainability goals a priority, and actually achieving them.

What about you? Do you look for eco-friendly products when you’re shopping online? Will the badge help make that easier?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Shopping for Baby, Part 1

I am a creature of habit. When it comes to shopping, that means I tend to be very brand loyal. Once I find a product that I really like, I stick with it, shopping trip after shopping trip. This is great for the brands that I love, but it means that I rarely try new products or find out if there’s something I like better than what I’ve already got. So when Walmart gave me the opportunity to try a bunch of different baby products, I was only to happy to oblige. After all, having a baby in the house does create some unique buying opportunities, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing out.

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The great thing about Walmart is that I can get everything I need for Juliza in one place, from her diapers to her clothes, bath products and food. In spite of that, I had never bought any of these products before.

Huggies Little Movers Diapers

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Price often dictates which diapers I purchase, because they all work pretty much the same, right? Well, they all function the same, but I wouldn’t say they all work the same. Some are definitely better than others. And I have to say, Huggies Little Movers definitely goes on the list of better diapers.

Even when I unfold the diaper to put it on Juliza, I can tell the difference. The material feels sturdier than other brands I’ve tried, and the fit is really great for an active toddler. Juliza rarely keeps still, and we’ve started to see some shift in her diaper throughout the day. Huggies Little Movers are designed to accommodate all this activity.

The waistband and leg openings have great stretch, and in addition to the regular tabs that close the diaper, there are strips on the front that also adhere to keep it closed. Plus, they’ve proven to be very absorbent and keep her skin dry even when her diaper is wet.

They’re on the higher end of the price scale, but the features make them worth the money.

Aveeno Baby Wash & Lotion

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I’m very particular about what I put on Juliza’s skin, in part because she’s my baby and I’m protective, but also because she’s prone to dryness and I have to be vigilant to keep her skin well-moisturized. This means that she only gets baths every other night so we don’t dry out her skin, and I put lotion on her several times a day.

The Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo is very lightly scented and it’s not drying at all. After a bath, when I towel Juliza off, her skin already seems to be absorbing moisture really well when I use this. But the lotion is the real find.

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I like putting lotion on her immediately after a bath when her skin will best absorb moisture. But by morning, I usually have to apply it again, and then once more during the day. The Aveeno Daily Moisture baby lotion kept her skin well moisturized all day long. I only had to apply it one time. That’s it. It really did work better than anything else I’ve tried on her skin.

My only objection is that I’m not a fan of some of the ingredients. Aveeno has natural ingredients, but it’s not all natural. Still, both products score a 2 in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database — low scores that indicate they are pretty safe.

Gerber 2nd Foods

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Juliza already has 10 teeth, with a couple more coming in, so she’s a bit past the stage of eating pureed baby food any more. However, we still give her cereal and oatmeal, and she loves fruit, so we like to mix a little pureed fruit in with those. The Gerber 2nd Foods products include a lot of mixed fruit options. We tried the Apples & Cherries, and Banana Mixed Berries.

Juliza loved the Banana Mixed Berries by itself, which I predicted because she loves bananas. The Apples & Cherries she preferred mixed with her cereal. At just $1.08 for a pack of two, they’re worth keeping on hand for moments when we want to give her a little snack.

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In a few weeks, I’ll share a couple more baby products from Walmart that we’re trying, but I’d love to hear about your shopping habits:

Are you a habitual shopper like me, or do you like to try new things or buy what’s on sale?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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