How to Coupon

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.

FoodSafety.gov 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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Ways to Save Money on Fall Decorations

Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Fall PumpkinsWill you be decorating your home for fall? There are many people who enjoy decorating their homes to match the changing of the seasons. Fall decorating can be done without having it become painfully expensive. Here are some ways to save money on fall decorations.

Start at the Dollar Stores.
Many dollar stores will be carrying a mix of fall and Halloween decorations right now. You can find things at the dollar stores for lower prices than what the same item will cost at a craft store. If you want to get the very best deals, check out the floral department at the dollar stores.

Both dollar stores and craft stores will sell silk or plastic flowers in colors that match the season. For fall, there will also be colored leaves. Each place will have flowers in fall colors right now. Why pay extra for the same thing?

The dollar stores are also a good place to pick up fall colored tablecloths, napkins, votive candles, and cute candleholders. Stock up at the dollar store and you will spend less money than if you bought those things at the grocery store or craft stores.

Don’t carve the pumpkins!
Pumpkins make great decorations for fall. Buy your pumpkins from the grocery store where you have a loyalty card. Get it on your next grocery shopping trip, and you could end up saving some money on it. They are generally inexpensive, though, unless you select a bunch of really large and heavy pumpkins.

Avoid carving these pumpkins. If your plan is to have them last until Halloween, you shouldn’t carve them now. Pumpkins can last for a while (as decorations) if they have not been carved. Place the large pumpkins on your porch, or add some little pumpkins to an indoor table. If you must decorate them, consider painting an image onto them instead of carving them in September.

Use your coupons.
Craft stores will have some fall items on sale now. Their price won’t drop significantly until after it gets closer to Christmas. To get the best price, you should wait to purchase fall decorations until that sale starts. Use those items next year.

If you don’t want to wait, there is another way to save money. Before you leave home, take a minute to print out the coupons from the craft store’s website. Bring the coupons with you. They should help you save at least a few dollars.

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The Best Things to Buy at Fall Festivals

Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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Popped kettle cornSummer is known for the plethora of festivals and outdoor activities it brings. In Fall, the weather starts to cool down and becomes comfortable enough for people to want to attend festivals. It is really easy to overspend while you are out and enjoying yourself. Here are some tips to about what to buy, and what to avoid, at fall festivals.

Kettle Corn
The best time to eat kettle corn is shortly after it has been popped and mixed. Fall festivals often include a booth with a vendor who is making giant bags of kettle corn. The price is usually low. Go ahead and purchase a large bag of freshly made kettle corn. The pre-packaged kettle corn you buy at the grocery store isn’t anywhere near as tasty as the freshly made kind you find at festivals.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Many fall festivals include a farmers’ market section. It is nice to be able to hand money directly to the farmers who grew the food you eat. Typically, you must pay for your produce in cash. That’s helpful because paying with physical money (instead of a credit card) makes people more aware of how much they are spending.

Buy only what you and your family will use in the next seven days. Select enough fruit to go into school lunches. Think about what you will make for dinner that includes the vegetables you are considering purchasing. A little bit of thinking ahead can help you save money.

Decorated pumpkins and gourds
Are you someone who cannot wait to start decorating your home for fall? If so, then it would be fine to purchase one or two decorated pumpkins or gourds that were handmade by crafters. You already know exactly where you will place them!

For best results, speak with the crafter and ask how long the craft will stay good. Painted pumpkins tend to last longer than carved ones. Ask if decorated, carved, gourds have been treated with something that helps to preserve them. Keep in mind that these kinds of crafts won’t last forever. Check to see if the price is right for something that cannot be re-used next fall.

Caramel apples
Caramel apples are a popular fall treat. You will save money on them if you take the time to make your own at home. When you purchase caramel apples at a fall festival, you are basically paying for the convenience of having someone else make them for you. Many people are more than happy to pay for the pre-made ones in order to avoid dealing with a caramel covered kitchen.

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Save Money on Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Pumpkin CoffeeFans of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte are undoubtedly happy to see that it has returned for the season! There is something about holiday drinks that bring up feelings of comfort and nostalgia. The limited time it is available can influence some people to spend more money on these tasty drinks than they intended. Here are some tips to help you save money on a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

One of the best ways to save money at Starbucks is to join their loyalty program. It is called Starbucks Rewards Register any Starbucks gift card and use it when you make your purchases.

You will earn stars. Use those stars on a free drink, a free refill, or free food. Are you already a member? Check to see how many stars you have and use them to get your next Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Another option is to visit your local coffee shops to see if they are offering a drink that is similar to Starbucks “PSL”. The “mom and pop” coffee shops are probably going to offer some kind of special holiday drinks for fall. You might discover an alternative to the Starbucks version of a pumpkin spice flavored coffee drink. Chances are, it will be less expensive, too.

You could make your own version of a pumpkin spice latte at home. Typically, the cost of making a “copycat” recipe at home of something you would usually buy from Starbucks (or restaurants, or fast food places) costs less. “Copycat” recipes also give you more control of the ingredients that are in the item you are trying to make. That’s great for people with food allergies or special dietary needs.

Foodie Fiasco has a recipe for a vegan version of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. The one at the Starbucks is not vegan and cannot be made that way.

Instructables has a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Latte that actually contains some real pumpkin. One of the complaints about the “PSL” this year is the lack of pumpkin in the drink. Those who are upset about that can use the recipe at Instructables to make their own drink at home.

Food.com has a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Latte that you can make in a crock pot. It takes five minutes to prepare, two hours to cook, and will give your home a nice fall scent while it is cooking.

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Box Tops for Education Helps Schools

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Globe, notebook stack and pencils. Schoolchild and student studiWant to help your child’s school, but don’t have the extra money to donate? There is a way that you can help without having to spend any extra money. The program is called Box Tops for Education. Clip special box tops just like you would a coupon. Send them to your child’s school. Every little bit helps!

What is Box Tops for Education?
Box Tops for Education is a simple way for people to donate money to a school without having to write a check or hand over some cash. Instead, they collect Box Tops from certain products that can be found at the grocery store.

Give the box tops to a participating school of your choice. That school can use the Box Tops cash to buy whatever the school needs. Each Box Top is worth ten cents for the school. Over 80,000 K-8 schools participate in the Box Tops for Education program.

Where Can I Find Box Tops?
The easiest way to find out about all the products that are participating in the Box Tops for Education program is to visit their website. Click the tab that says Participating Products. Many of the products can be found in grocery stores, so keep an eye out for them as you do your shopping. They include cereals, frozen products, baking products, snacks, juice, dairy foods, food storage products, produce, and paper products. Look for an icon on the top of the box (or front of the packaging) that says “Box Tops for Education”.

How Much Has My School Earned?
The Box Tops for Education website keeps track of participating school’s earning progress. Sign up to find out how much your child’s school has earned from this special program. You can compare how much your school has earned to the earnings of other local schools or with schools across the nation.

Signing up at Box Tops For Education gives you access to some very nice things. You can get printable coupons for products that come from companies that are participating in the program. Take them with you to the grocery store. You can also get Bonus Box Tops.

How Do Schools Get Paid For Box Tops?
The school can turn in the Box Tops all year long. Each school can receive two checks per year from the Box Tops for Education program – one in December, and one in April. The December check is the school’s accrued earning from March 2 through November 1. The April check covers earnings from November 2 through March 1. The school must earn at least $20.00 in Box Tops in order to receive a check. If they receive less, the amount carries over into the next check period.

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