How to Coupon

DIY Halloween Gravestones for your Yard

Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Halloween decorationsHalloween is one of the few holidays in which people set up decorations in their yards. Often, this includes carved pumpkins, fake spider webs, and things like that. Would you like to set up your own Halloween graveyard this year? There are so many ways to make your own Halloween gravestones.

Paper Bag Tombstones
Martha Stewart has a really easy way to make authentic looking Halloween gravestones. Her instructions will show you how to make them out of paper shopping bags. She suggests that you use gray shopping bags so that they will end up looking like stone.

Basically, what you need to do is cut the top of the bag into a shape that resembles a gravestone. You also need to add an epitaph onto the front of it. Not feeling very crafty? Martha Stewart has a template you can use for both of those things. Eventually, you will need to open the bags and stake them to the ground. Put a lit tea light in them for spooky effects.

Cardboard Box Gravestone
Dave Lowe Designs has an excellent tutorial, complete with photos, that will walk you through how to make awesome looking Halloween gravestones for your yard. Start with a free overnight shipping box from Fed-Ex (or any other shipping company).

He shows you how to use a template to make the name on your gravestone. There is a certain way to fold the cardboard in order to make a base (and help the gravestone stand up). He also used two or three coats of exterior house paint to give the cardboard box gravestone a realistic look. This project takes a bit more skill than the one from Martha Stewart (but isn’t too difficult).

Tissue Box Gravestones has a super simple DIY Halloween gravestone craft for children to do. First, you will need to collect up some empty tissue boxes (that were headed to the recycle bin). Follow the directions on the Crayola website.

In short, a child can take a piece of paper, cut it into a gravestone shape, and color it to make it resemble stone. An epitaph can be added to the front if desired (or just put R.I.P.). Glue the finished gravestone to the front of the empty tissue box. They will make a nice window display for Halloween trick-or-treaters to enjoy.

You could place these mini Halloween gravestones outside if you place them on a covered porch (so they don’t get rained on). It might be a good idea to stick rocks inside the empty box to weigh it down.

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DIY Fall Scarecrow Decorations

Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the fun things about fall is the creative decorating that people do. Scarecrows start popping up on people’s porches and front yards. They can be either to celebrate fall, or Halloween, or just for fun! It is entirely possible to make your own scarecrow this year. Making one is a lot more fun, and much less expensive, than purchasing a pre-made scarecrow from a store.

Where will you put it?
The first step is something you might not have expected. You need to figure out where your scarecrow will go. Many people like to put a scarecrow on their front porch (out of the way of the door). For others, the best place for a scarecrow might be the front yard.

Once you have decided where your scarecrow will sit, you will need to get him a chair. Choose a plastic lawn chair, or use a piece of patio furniture that is already on your porch. The type of chair doesn’t matter – so long as it is the type that can be used outside.

Gather some old clothes.
Your scarecrow will need some clothes. Fortunately scarecrows aren’t at all picky about what they wear, and are oblivious to the latest fashions. Find some old clothes that you were planning on turning into cleaning rags or throwing away. The clothing doubles as the body of the scarecrow.

At minimum, you will need an old pair of pants and an old shirt (preferably with long sleeves). You can accessorize your scarecrow with a hat, some boots, and a pair of gardening gloves.

Stuff the scarecrow.
There are a wide variety of materials that can be used to stuff a scarecrow. Crunched up newspaper can work well. Those of you with an excess of plastic shopping bags (or take-out bags) can use those. Another great idea is to use the leaves that are covering your yard. Your family can help rake and gather up the leaves. Use some to stuff the scarecrow. Get rid of the rest as you usually would.

Tie the ends of the shirt sleeves into a knot before you start stuffing. Do the same with the pant legs. This will prevent the stuffing material from falling out. Set up the scarecrow as you stuff him. Tuck the pant legs into boots and the shirt sleeves into gloves.

What about the head?
The easiest way to make a head for a scarecrow is to just use a pumpkin. Set a pumpkin on top of your stuffed scarecrow, put a hat on top, and you are all set! If you want to get fancier, you can paint a face on the pumpkin.

Those who are more artistic can carve a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern type of face, and use that pumpkin for the scarecrows head. Don’t put a lit candle inside it! Scarecrows are flammable.

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Where to Find Frugal Pumpkin Carving Stencils

Posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Halloween Deals!Ready to carve your Halloween pumpkins? It is not as easy as it may seem. Those who are not naturally gifted at carving squashes will benefit from planning ahead before they start working. One simple way to end up with a nice looking jack-o-lantern is to start by using a stencil of a design. Here is a quick look at where to find some free, printable, pumpkin carving stencils.

Disney Designs
Disney has updated their website for pumpkin carving stencils since last year. Now, you can browse through photos of pumpkins that have been carved with a design that looks like a Disney character. Find one you like, and you can click on a box that will automatically take you to a page that will let you download the template. This year, there is a helpful step by step walkthrough of pumpkin carving tips.

Zombie Pumpkins
Zombie Pumpkins website has been around since 2002 (but it might be new to you). The pumpkin carving templates they offer are not free, but their membership is frugally priced. You can join for $2.00 and download 2 patterns of your choice. A $5.00 membership will give you access to up to 25 patterns of your choice. The memberships last 9 months and the website says you will not be rebilled later.

They have added a new section of pumpkin carving stencils called “Kreatures for Kids”. It includes a variety of cartoon characters (some of which are from Disney, most of which are from other cartoons). If that’s not to your liking, you can check out the designs in 15 other categories.

Plants vs Zombies
Popcap is the name of the company that made the popular Plants Vs Zombies video game. They have also made six pumpkin carving stencils that were inspired by the game. Choose from: Sunflower, Peashooter, Crazy Dave, Mummy Zombie, Pirate Zombie, and Cowboy Zombie. The stencil for each one can be printed out for use on your pumpkin.

Hershey’s has an entire page dedicated to Halloween designs and decorations. They have grouped their pumpkin carving stencils into three categories: Easy, Intermediate, and Hard. Choose from several “traditional” Halloween designs. The PDF for each can be downloaded and printed out. Or, you can print out an entire category of pumpkin carving stencils.

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Ideas for Family Halloween Costumes

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Little boy as cow drinking milkHalloween isn’t just for kids. It’s also for families to enjoy together! It is no longer unusual for families to all dress in costume for trick-or-treating. Instead of choosing random costumes, it might be more fun to coordinate them so the whole family has costumes that go together. Here are a few ideas for family Halloween costumes.

Figuring out what to dress up as for Halloween can be difficult. Things get more complex if you are trying to do an entire set of family costumes. It doesn’t have to be hard, though. It also doesn’t have to involve purchasing brand new costumes from the store. Use some creativity and a little imagination, and you could end up with awesome family costumes for Halloween!

Farmers and Animals
Babble has photos of 25 family Halloween costumes. Number 19 is called “Family Farm”. This one doesn’t require the adults to actually purchase costumes. Parents will dress as farmers by wearing jeans or bibbed overalls, flannel shirts, straw hats, and boots.

The children will dress up as a farm animal (pigs, cows, chickens). For the kids costumes, you could start with a headband or hat that has animal ears on it. Dress the child in clothing that matches the animal. Pigs could be pink, cows could be brown or white with black spots. Or, you could buy a brand new animal costume from a store.

Does your family like to eat M&M’s? You can easily put together some family costumes of those colorful candies. First, assign everyone in your family an M&M color: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, or Brown.

Next, find a shirt and pants that are in the assigned color. Grab some paper and a letter m stencil and create one letter m for each family member. Tape the letter m onto everyone’s shirt. Together, you are now a package of M&Ms!

You might not think so at first, but zombie costumes can be really easy to make. First, gather up some old clothing. Make the old clothes look like they have been worn by the undead by getting them dirty and adding rips and tears.

Use a little Halloween makeup on every family member’s face to give them darkly shaded eyes. Older kids might enjoy using the latex makeup pieces that look like wounds or scars. Red paint can be used to make fake blood on the old clothing. For further inspiration, visit Flickr and type “zombie walk”. Warning: some of the photos it brings up may be too scary for young children.

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Before You Buy a Halloween Costume…

Posted on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Last-Minute Halloween CostumeWhat are your kids going to dress up as on Halloween? Are some of the adults in your family planning to put on costumes and attend Halloween parties? Before you spend money to buy a Halloween costume you might want to see what you already have at home.

Last Year’s Costumes
If your family includes several children, chances are there are plenty of “old” Halloween costumes still around. The younger kids will be able to fit into the Halloween costumes that were worn by the older kids in previous years. Dig your box of Halloween costumes out of storage and have the kids start trying them on.

Certain types of Halloween costumes are timeless. Costumes of Disney Princesses, or other characters, stay popular. Classic monsters, like vampires, mummies, and ghosts, are costumes that you will see people dressing up in year after year.

Repurposed Costumes
Do your kids participate in after school activities that involve a uniform or costume? They could go trick-or-treating in the clothing they wear for those activities. Your little soccer player, football player, cheerleader, ballet dancer, or karate student can wear that outfit on Halloween.

This option might not appeal to all children. However, it is a great idea for kids who feel emotionally uncomfortable when wearing clothing that they are not familiar with. It also works as a simple, safe, option for kids who have issues with the texture or “feel” of Halloween costumes.

Easy Costumes for Adults
Will you be attending a Halloween party that requires you to wear a costume? Does your family all dress up for trick-or-treating – adults included? If so, you are going to need a costume. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money to get one. Be creative!

* Black graduation gown + Black wig + long tree branch from the backyard = Severus Snape from the popular Harry Potter Series.

* Bibbed jean overalls + an old flannel shirt + a floppy hat + minimal face makeup = Scarecrow

* Wedding gown + plastic, glitzy, tiara + sparkly nail polish = Princess or Queen

* Headband with animal ears + sweatpants and sweatshirt of the same color = cat, dog, mouse, or bear (depending on what the animal ears are shaped like)

* Football jersey of your favorite team + face paint of the team’s colors = Superfan!

* Black pants + shirt from the Renaissance Faire + red bandanna = pirate

Visit the Thrift Stores
You never know what you will find in the clothing section of a thrift store. In October, many thrift stores start gathering up items that can be put together to make Halloween costumes. They will usually have a display of ideas.

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Stock Up on Halloween Candy for Less

Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Halloween CandyAre you expecting lots of trick-or-treaters this Halloween? It is a good idea to stock up on candy just in case. There are ways to stock up without having to spend a ton of money. Here are some tips to help you buy the Halloween candy you need for less.

Don’t buy your favorite kind!
So many people make a huge mistake when selecting Halloween candy. They buy a few bags of their favorite kind. What typically happens is people decide that it won’t hurt to have “just one piece”. Before they know it, the bag is empty and they have to spend more money to replace the candy that they ate.

Instead, pick up some bags of Halloween candy that you like, but are not your favorite. You will be less tempted to eat it. Put it in your cabinet or pantry so that it is out of sight. That will help it to still be there until Halloween.

Look for sales.
The sales on Halloween candy are about to begin. Some have already started and more will appear as we get closer to Halloween. Obviously, the best time to buy something is when it goes on sale. Check the weekly sales papers of grocery stores and department stores and compare prices.

For extra savings, shop at the store that you have a loyalty card with. Those cards tend to give you access to special discounts and digital coupons. Don’t forget to check the store’s website for digital coupons before you head out.

Don’t be the “cool parent”.
Somehow, every kid in the neighborhood figures out which house is handing out full size candy bars to trick-or-treaters. That parent becomes the coolest person in the neighborhood that night.

Unfortunately, this kind of popularity comes with a price. It is a lot more expensive to hand out full sized candy bars than it is to buy bags of Halloween candy and hand out the individual pieces. Resist the urge to impress the trick-or-treaters. Go with the inexpensive stuff.

Hand out things that are not candy.
It is perfectly acceptable to hand out non-candy items to the trick-or-treaters. Some parents collect up all those little “happy meal” toys that their kids have gotten bored with. Clean them up and give them to the trick-or-treaters. Or, get a package of Halloween stickers and cut them into individual pieces. Buy a bulk quantity of Halloween pencils and hand those out instead of candy. Be creative!

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In Season Produce for October

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Squash Soup in White Bowl with BreadThe very best time to buy fresh produce is when it is in season. It will be at the lowest price of the entire year! Some of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoyed in September will still be in season for at least part of October. There are also new ones to look for that have just come into season now.

What’s going out of season?
The cantaloupe that was in season during September is no longer in season for October. You can also say goodbye to fresh mangos and nectarines for now. Those are fruits that many associate with summer, so it makes sense that they go out of season for fall.

There are also some vegetables that you should get your fill of before they disappear for the season. These include sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, chili peppers, okra, lettuce, green beans and tomatillos. Garlic is about to go out of season, too. You can expect the price of the produce that is no longer in season to go up. Consider purchasing frozen ones instead.

What is still in season?
You can probably guess which fruits and vegetables stay in season from September through October. It is the ones that people think of in the fall when the weather starts to get colder. Apples, peaches, pears, and plums are still in season this month. Pomegranates are also still in season.

The winter squashes are going to stay in season for a while. This includes the acorn squash, the butternut squash and the pumpkin. Some of the other vegetables that you enjoyed in September, and that will still be in season during October are spinach, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, leeks, and broccoli.

What’s new in October?
Cranberries start their season in October. Many people think of them as a food for Thanksgiving or some winter holidays. If you like them, you can start enjoying them now, for a nice price. Tangerines are in season right now, too. Those of you who miss the citrus fruits from previous seasons might do well with a tangerine or two.

What about the veggies? Some of the heartier types of vegetables are in season during October. Winter squash is now in season. You can also find in season collard greens, rutabagas, and parsnips. Butter lettuce, oddly enough, comes into season in October (despite the fact that other types of lettuce go out of season now). The sweet corn is at the end of its season, but some “regular” corn will remain in season for a bit longer.

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Get the Most from Your Pumpkin

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Pumpkin SoupWe tend to think of the pumpkins that we see in the grocery store as a fall decoration. Don’t forget that a pumpkin is actually food! It is related to some of the other winter squashes. This year, instead of just carving a pumpkin, why not consider eating it? Here are some ideas that will help you get the most from your pumpkin.

Use fresh pumpkin instead of canned.
Food Network has an informative article by Alton Brown about how to make pumpkin puree. Canned pumpkin is actually pureed pumpkin. The pumpkin puree that you make at home can be substituted for canned pumpkin in a recipe. You will need to start with a pumpkin that has not yet been carved.

In short, you need to cut your pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Remove the “goop” (the fiber and the seeds) with a spoon. Sprinkle the halves with kosher salt and put them, flesh side up, on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan. You may need to cut some of the pumpkin skin off the back to make the halves sit nicely. Roast it for 30 to 45 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the pumpkin halves cool for one hour. Then, you can use a large spoon to remove the pumpkin flesh. Put it into a food processor to make it smooth. You now have fresh pumpkin puree!

What can you do with the pumpkin puree? Substitute it for the canned pumpkin in recipes for pumpkin pie, pumpkin biscuits, pumpkin bread, or pumpkin muffins. Freeze small individual portions of pumpkin puree and use them later as baby food or to put into a smoothie. Make some pumpkin soup.

Eat the pumpkin seeds.
Remove the pumpkin seeds from the fibers. The seeds are a delicious and nutritious snack. It is safe to eat pumpkin seeds shell and all. Or, you could crack open the shells and eat the nut meat by itself. Pumpkin seeds can be added to all kinds of things including: trail mix, muffins, pumpkin bread, and more.

Another option is to roast the pumpkin seeds. Leave the seeds in their shells if you plan on roasting them. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the pumpkin seeds into a bowl and pour melted butter and salt over them. Next, put the seeds on a baking sheet. Bake them for 45 minutes (or until they turn a golden brown color).

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How to Paint a Pumpkin

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Painted Pumpkin iStock resizedFall decorating often includes pumpkins. You shouldn’t carve them yet, though, because the carved ones won’t last until Halloween. This leaves you with two choices. Use intact, un-carved, pumpkins as decorations. Or, if that sounds too plain, you could make their fancier by painting them. Here are some tips to help you paint a pumpkin.

Start with an idea.
The first thing you need to do is come up with a good idea. What kind of scene do you want to paint onto your pumpkin? You can be as imaginative as you like. Some prefer to paint a goofy face onto their pumpkin. Others will carefully paint an entire Halloween scene. Another option is to paint the image of your favorite cartoon character onto the pumpkin.

What if you don’t happen to be very artistic? You can still paint a pumpkin. Go online and search for the free pumpkin carving stencils that appear at this time of year. Print out one that you like. Use a scissors to cut out the necessary parts of the design. Use masking tape to make the template stick to your pumpkin.

Get the right supplies.
Acrylic paint works best. It will “stick” to the outside of a pumpkin. Another advantage to using this kind of paint is that it is water soluble. It can be easily washed off. If you make a mistake while painting your pumpkin you might be able to wash the paint off and start over. Acrylic paint also washes easily out of brushes and off of hands and fingers.

Ideally, you will want one paintbrush for each color that you are going to use. This prevents colors mixing into undesirable outcomes. After you have finished painting your pumpkin it is a good idea to leave it alone until the paint is completely dry. Want to make sure none of the paint flakes off? Spray the painted pumpkin with a clear fixative. Your local arts and crafts store should have some.

Don’t forget to have fun!
Many people feel intimidated about trying to make art. The point of painting a pumpkin is to have fun doing it. It doesn’t have to look like a professional artist painted it. Get your whole family involved and spend an evening painting pumpkins. The memory of the experience, and the fun you shared, is way more important than what the art on the pumpkins ended up looking like.

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Tips for Crockpot Cooking

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Crockpot 2The weather in fall is typically cooler than what it was like in the hot summer months. This inspires many people to get out their crockpot and start trying new recipes. Here are some tips that should answer your questions about crockpot cooking!

Is it safe?
There are some who wonder if eating food that has been cooked in a crockpot is safe. After all, the food does, essentially, sit on your countertop (and not in the refrigerator) for 8 hours or so. Is the food going to be safe to eat when it is done cooking in a crockpot?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) food that is cooked in a crockpot, or a slow cooker, is safe to eat. These appliances cook food at a low temperature that is generally between 170 degrees and 280 degrees Fahrenheit. points out that the “danger zone” with food is when it is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Crockpots heat food higher than that range. Make sure you start with a clean crockpot, clean utensils, and a clean work area. Wash your hands before and during food preparation.

Can you put frozen food in a crockpot?
The official Crockpot website says that you can do that, but need to realize that doing so will require a longer cook time than the recipe indicates. If you don’t want to add extra cook time then you need to thaw the food before putting it into the crockpot.

The Crockpot website recommends that you add at least 1 cup of warm liquid to the crockpot before placing frozen meat into it. Don’t preheat the crockpot. Cook your recipe (with the frozen meat) for an additional 4 to 6 hours on low or an extra 2 hours on high.

What about leftovers?
The leftovers from a crockpot meal will be safe to eat if you store them properly. Home Food Safety suggests you store leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate them within two hours of removing them from the crockpot. If the food has been sitting out longer than that, you are taking a risk. It may have become unsafe to eat.

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