How to Save

Free Kids Events in September

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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art suppliesThe start of the new school year is upon us! Your kids will be busy at school for hours every day. They will probably have homework to keep them busy after school. Want to find some free and fun activities for them to do on the weekends? Here are some events that your kids can participate in during the month of September. Some require you to register, and others let you just drop by.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free building events for kids on Saturdays. Each child will receive a free apron, goggles and patch. They will also have the opportunity to build a wooden project. Registration is required. The event begins at 10:00 in the morning.

September 13, 2014: Binoculars – Kids will build their very own binoculars. They are in the shape of a wooden box. Maybe your child will use the binoculars to start his or her hobby as a birdwatcher.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free building workshops for kids on Saturdays. The events are for kids ages 5 – 12. Kids get to build a project and will receive a free Workshop Apron, a commemorative pin, and a certificate of achievement. Registration is required.

September 6, 2014: Build a Wizard of Oz Birdhouse – Kids will learn how to build their very own birdhouse.

LEGO Stores
Every month, LEGO stores hold a free event for kids ages 6 – 14. It is the monthly mini model build. Quantities are limited and offer is good “while supplies last”. The event takes place on the first Tuesday of every month. Events begin at 5:00 in the evening.

September 2, 2014: LEGO Racing Plane – Kids will learn how to build a racing plane out of LEGOs.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free kids craft events every Saturday from 11:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. The events are for children ages 3 and up.

September 6, 2014: Owl Pencil Holder – Kids will learn how to make a cute owl pencil holder out of a styrofoam cup and some art supplies.

September 13, 2014: Build Your Name Apple – Kids will create a paper plate apple that holds paper seeds. Each seed has one letter of the child’s name on it.

September 20, 2014: Keep the Beat Den Den Drum – Kids will create and decorate a drum that they can make music with at home.

September 27, 2014: My Reading Log Bookmark – Kids will put together a bookmark that has a reading log on it. They fill it in with the title of each book that they read.

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The National School Lunch Program

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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School LunchEvery family goes through some financially difficult times. The start of a new school year brings a lot of new expenses. Are you unsure if you can afford to buy enough groceries to supply your child with a lunch every school day? There is a chance that your family might qualify for some assistance. The National School Lunch Program was designed for families who are having financial difficulties.

Who Can Qualify?
Families that are earning at or below the current income eligibility requirements can have their children qualify for the National School Lunch Program. The current guidelines are effective from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Contact your child’s school and ask to fill out a school meal application. The school (or a local agency) should process that application and determine if your family is eligible.

Families that are currently receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may or may not have to fill out an application. Parents who are on SNAP will automatically have their child qualify for free school meals. People who are on unemployment compensation might also be eligible to have their child receive free or reduced price school meals.

School Breakfast Program
The School Breakfast Program was made permanent in 1975. The program operates in more than 89,000 schools and institutions.

Public or nonprofit schools (of high school grade or under) can participate in the School Breakfast Program. The school district (or independent school) receives cash subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they serve.

Any child that attends a school that is participating in the School Breakfast Program can purchase a breakfast meal through that program. Kids who are from families with income at or below 130% of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Kids from families with slightly higher income, 130% to 185% of the Federal poverty level can be eligible for reduced price breakfasts.

Special Milk Program
The Special Milk Program provides milk to children who are eligible. The child’s school is reimbursed for the milk that they serve through the program

Kids who are in a school that participates in the Special Milk Program, or who are in a half-day pre-kindergarten program, or kindergarten program can buy milk or receive it for free. It depends on the school’s choice of program options.

Schools that participate in this program must offer only pasteurized fluid types of fat free or low-fat (1%) milk. The milk must contain vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration.

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How to Save on School Uniforms

Posted on Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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UniformsThere was a time when only private schools required students to wear a uniform. Today, there are several public schools that have instituted a dress code that requires what amounts to a school uniform. Each of your kids is going to require several “outfits” of their school uniform to get them through the week. Here are some ideas about how to save money on school uniforms.

What Still Fits?
Will your child be attending the same school that he or she did last year? If they haven’t changed the dress code, you might be in luck. There could be some uniform “pieces” that still fit your child this year. You can save some money by using them for the upcoming school year. There is a chance you might only need to purchase a few new items of clothing.

Another great way to save money on school uniforms is to take advantage of “hand-me-downs”. Older children who no longer attend the school can pass their old school uniforms to their younger siblings. Kids still attending the school can give the items they have outgrown to their little brother or sister.

Shop Department Stores
The back-to-school clothing sales are happening right now. Many department stores carry dockers, polo shirts, and other items that make up a typical school uniform. Do some “homework” and check prices at several stores before you head out the door. You might get an even better deal if you use your store credit card or loyalty card.

Try the Thrift Stores
One good thing about the types of school uniforms that many schools use is that they are made of components that are easy to find. You might be able to buy some dark blue or tan pants and skirts from the thrift store. Look for white shirts while you are there. It will be much less expensive than if you bought the same items new. Don’t forget to check out the children’s clothing stores that take donations and resell them.

Make it Last
One way to avoid having to replace clothing is to use some simple tricks that help it to last longer. Have your children take off their school uniforms and change into “play clothes” as soon as they get home. Let them get their “play clothes” dirty instead of their uniform.

Hang up the school uniform clothing that is clean enough to be worn again without washing it. Washing machines and dryers can actually wear out clothing – especially clothes that get washed frequently. Wash clothes only when they truly need it and you can extend the life of the clothing.

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In Season Produce for August

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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BlueberriesWhat fruits and vegetables are in season during the month of August? Some of them are the same as what was fresh in July. Others are new for August, and may overlap into September. Either way, the trick is to purchase produce when it is in season and at its freshest. Produce that is in season tastes great and is at its lowest prices of the year. Here is a quick review of the fruits and vegetables that are in season in August.

August is your last chance to enjoy your favorite summer fruits while they are still in season. This is especially true when it comes to berries. Now is a good time to make some blueberry pancakes or muffins with fresh blueberries. Add some strawberries to a salad while they are still nice and ripe. Blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries are also in season this month.

Beyond the berries, there are more fruits and vegetables that you should enjoy now, before they are out of season. Watermelon and cantaloupe are good choices for a quick dessert on hot summer days. Add fresh cucumber slices to a glass of water to give it an even more refreshing taste. Make a mango salsa to put on top of fish tacos.

Summer squash makes a nice side dish for dinner. We are heading into the last few weeks where the weather will be warm enough for some backyard barbeques. Take advantage of it by grilling some fresh corn (along with some burgers). Both tomatoes and onions are in season this month. Each of them make a nice topping on a grilled hamburger.

Need some healthy snacks for back-to-school lunches? Carrots are in season right now. Buy some baby carrots or cut larger carrots into “coins” to make them more interesting to eat. Fuji apples are at their freshest in August. You could also pack some fresh strawberries into a lunch or substitute an navel orange for the Fuji apples. Switching things up prevents lunch from getting boring.

One of the really interesting things about the produce that is in season during August is that it is a mix of both summer and fall favorites. Pumpkin is in season right now. Those of you who love it can go ahead and start using it in baked goods and beverages. Potatoes, a favorite vegetable for almost everyone, are also in season now.

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Free Kids Events in August

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014 at 7:02 am
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Kids CraftsThe summer is going by so fast! Are your kids complaining that they are bored? Give them something fun to do by taking them to the free kids events that are happening in August. Some are building events, others are craft events, and all will entertain your kids for at least half an hour or so.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow holds free kids clinics on Saturdays. Each child who participates will get a free apron, goggles, patch, and the opportunity to build a wooden project. Parents must register their children ahead of time in order for them to attend the event.

August 9, 2014: Kids will build a Monsters vs Aliens Trolley. It is a wooden trolley that is decorated with images from the Monsters vs Aliens movie.

August 23, 2014: Kids will build a Monsters vs Aliens Robot. It is a wooden robot. The overall look is inspired by the Monsters vs Aliens movie.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning has free kids craft events every Saturday. They begin at 11:00 in the morning and will end at 3:00 in the afternoon. The events are for kids who are age 3 and older. No registration is required.

August 9, 2014: Summer Spinning Top – Kids will create and decorate a spinning top that has a sun decoration on the top of it.

August 16, 2014: Blooming Numbers Garden – Kids will create a blooming flower with petals that have math problems on them.

August 23, 2014: Silly Face Magnetic Note Holder – Kids will use craft sticks, feathers, googly eyes, and a clothespin to create a silly face magnetic holder. The note goes in the clothespin. A magnet goes on the back of the craft.

August 30, 2014: Whimsical Wind Catcher – Kids will create a wind catcher and decorate it with stickers, sequence, and beads.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free “DIY” workshops to kids of all ages and experience levels. Kids get to build a wooden craft, and will receive a Workshop Apron, a commemorative pin, and a certificate of achievement. Parents must register their child in order to have him or her attend the event.

August 2, 2014: Build a Mini-Crate Pencil Holder – Kids will build a small, wooden, crate that can be used as a pencil holder.

LEGO Club
LEGO Club offers free mini model build events once a month. They take place at LEGO stores and start at 5:00 in the evening. The events are for children ages 6 – 14.

August 5, 2014: LEGO Monkey Mini Build – Kids will build a mini model of a monkey with LEGO.

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Ways to Repurpose Household Items

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Angel Soft Facial TissueNeed a frugal way to organize things? Look no further than your recycling bin! There are certain household items that get tossed in the recycling because people don’t realize how useful they are. You can repurpose so many of the items you currently consider to be useless. Repurposing helps you to save money, too.

Empty Tissue Boxes
What can you do with an empty tissue box? Plenty! Store your child’s small toys inside one. It can also become storage for crayons and colored pencils that no longer have a box to return to.

Put an empty tissue box under the sink and use it to store the plastic bags you get when you buy something at a store. An empty tissue box can become a holder for the extra napkins that you end up taking home with you after dining at a fast food restaurant. Your kitten can spend some happy moments playing with an empty tissue box.

Egg Cartons
Paper (or cardboard) egg cartons make excellent seed starters for your garden. Separate the compartments from each other. Put some dirt and a seed inside each one. Nurture the little plant with sunlight and water until it has a good amount of growth.

Move the entire seed starter to your garden when the weather is right. You won’t need to remove the little plant from the egg carton it started growing in before you plant it. The cardboard will biodegrade on its own.

Egg cartons that are made of plastic or styrofoam can be used to store golf balls. Some people clean the egg carton and then use it to store individual portions of food in their freezer.

Ice Cube Trays
Got an old ice cube tray that you are no longer using? Repurpose it to hold small items. Put it on your desk (or in a desk drawer). Store paper clips in one “cube”, thumb tacks in another, and tiny USB sticks in a third. An ice cube tray can easily hold and organize stamps, rubber bands, and other small office supplies.

Or, you could repurpose an ice cube tray as sleek and simple jewelry box. Rings go in one “cube”, earrings in another, pins in a third. Put one necklace into each “cube”, and you will never have to untangle them from each other ever again!

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Great Freezer Meal Recipes

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Sloppy joe sandwich against a white background.Freezer meals are fast, easy to reheat, and a healthy alternative to fast food. Another great thing about them is that making them enables you to use up your groceries before they go bad. Do the cooking at night (when the weather is cooler) and freeze individual portions. Use your microwave to reheat the food on days when it is too hot to cook! Here are some great freezer meal recipes to try.

EatingWell Sloppy Joes
EatingWell has a freezer recipe for sloppy joe mix. It makes 8 generous servings. The filling can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month. You will need:

* 12 ounces of 90% -lean ground beef
* 1 large onion (finely diced)
* 2 cups cremini mushrooms (finely chopped)
* 5 plum tomatoes (diced)
* 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup waterproof
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup chili sauce
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Crumble the beef into a non-stick skillet. Cook it over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the onion and mushrooms. Keep cooking. Stir occasionally to break up the meat. Stop when the vegetables are soft and the moisture has evaporated. Next, add tomatoes and flour. Stir to combine. Stir in the water, vinegar, chili sauce and ketchup and bring it to a simmer. When it is done (and cooled) you might want to divide it into individual servings before freezing it.

Macaroni and Cheese
Martha Stewart has a freezer recipe for what many consider to be a “comfort food”. It will make a total of 8 servings. You will need:

* 1 pound of short pasta
* Coarse salt
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 cups milk
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 3 cups sharp white cheddar cheese (shredded)
* 1 cup Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
* 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (very coarse)

Follow the directions on the package to cook the pasta. Drain when finished, rinse, and return the pasta to the pot. While the pasta is cooking, heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Whisk it while it cooks. Stop when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the cheeses until smooth. Pour the mixture over the pasta, and toss to coat.

Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle that over the pasta. Divide it into 8 servings, each in it’s own dish. Cover each one tightly with plastic wrap and freeze it. (It can be frozen for up to 3 months.) Visit the Martha Stewart website for directions on how to reheat the dish in your oven. Otherwise, use the microwave and stir it frequently.

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Ways to Save Money While Camping

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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family camping iStockDoes your family enjoy camping? The gear, the food, and the fees can make what at first glance appears to be an inexpensive vacation into something pricey. Here are some helpful hints that you can use to save money while camping.

Entrance Fee Free Days
The National Park Service has special days every year when the entrance fees to the National Parks will be waived. Upcoming dates on 2014 include: August 25 (National Park Service’s 98th Birthday) September 27 (National Public Lands Day) and November 11 (Veterans Day). Visit a National Park (or camp there) on one of those days and you can save yourself the cost of the entry fee.

Save the Recycling
Start saving some items that you would typically toss in the recycling bin (or trash) in the months before your camping trip. You will need plenty of empty toilet paper rolls and old dryer lint. These make great fire starters!

Tuck some dryer lint inside each empty toilet paper roll. Don’t stuff it too full! Ideally, you want a loose fit in order to allow for optimal oxygen flow and the best burn. This saves you the trouble of searching for kindling and the cost of purchasing wood to bring with and burn.

Borrow From Friends and Family
Buying brand new camping gear can get expensive. Before you make a purchase, see if any of your friends or relatives would be willing to let you borrow some of their gear. Most people go camping once a year and then store everything away. It won’t trouble them to let you borrow it.

Make sure you take really good care of the camping gear that you borrowed. Return it in the condition it was when you borrowed it. Repay your friend or relative by letting him or her borrow your camping gear when you aren’t using it. Another option is to pair up with a fellow avid camper and split the cost of a new tent, cooler, or other camping gear.

Camp Day-To-Day
This isn’t always possible, but can save you money. Instead of pre-paying for your campsite for an entire week, see if you can pay day-to-day instead.

This prevents you from losing money if you end up going home earlier than expected. The weather may get cold, rainy, or nasty. Someone you are camping with might get sick and need to leave. Pay by the day, and you avoid the potential of losing money on days you couldn’t stay at the camp site.

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Simple Ideas for a 4th of July Party

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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WatermelonYour 4th of July party can be fun without it having to be difficult or expensive. Turn it into a relaxing way to celebrate with your family and close friends. Here are some ideas that will help you to keep things nice and simple this year.

Shop the Dollar Store
Dollar stores are a great place to find the things you need for a party. Look for red, white, or blue napkins, paper plates, and plastic cups. You should also be able to find inexpensive tablecloths to cover the tables that the food will be served from. These items won’t cost very much at all.

Consider a Pot-Luck
Many people have a backyard barbecue to celebrate Independence Day. One way to split the cost of food and drinks is to ask guests to bring a dish to pass. You might want to do some organizing ahead to sort out who will bring a side dish and who will bring a dessert. This “share the expense” idea works well with family parties.

Carve Some Watermelons
You’ve probably carved some pumpkins for a Halloween party. Now is the time to carve some watermelons for a 4th of July party! It’s a lot easier (and neater) than carving pumpkins.

Create a simple stencil to use. It could say “July 4”. Those of you with artistic skill can make a more detailed design. Use a vegetable peeler to carefully remove small portions of the watermelon rind until you can see the red part that is inside. The watermelon now makes a nice decoration until it is time to eat it.

Make it a Picnic
Here’s a unique idea that will work nicely for families with small children. Instead of backyard barbecue with a lot of people coming and going, turn your party into a picnic. Select a park that is walking distance from your home. Bring along a picnic blanket to sit on (or to cover a picnic table with).

Pack a cooler with sandwiches, easy to eat snacks, and water bottles. Put everything into a wagon that can be easily pulled along to the park. Bring the whole family on a nice walk. Sit down together and eat and then let the kids play on the swings and run around the park. This can fill time between the parade and the fireworks.

Serve Popsicles
Hot weather is the perfect time to serve popsicles! You can go as frugal as you want with this idea. Buy a big box of the popsicles that come in plastic strips. Pick up some boxes of popsicles that are red, white, and blue and resemble a rocket. Another option is to buy fruit based popsicles that are red or blue.

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Free Kids Events in July

Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Creativity lesson(preschool activity)Need something fun for your kids to do in July? If they enjoy making arts and crafts, or building projects, there is plenty for them to do! Here are some frugal kids events that will take place in July (and the end of June). All of them are free to attend!

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free kids clinics on Saturdays. Each child will receive a free apron, goggles, patch, and the chance to build a wooden project. Parents must register their children ahead of time if they want their child to attend.

June 28, 2014: Sheep Drop Game – Kids will build their own wooden sheep drop game that is based on the movie “How to Train Your Dragon 2”.

July 12, 2014: Kids will build a Turbo with pullback motor

July 26, 2014: Kids will build a TurboTaco Truck

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free kids craft events every Saturday. They start at 11:00 in the morning and end at 3:00 in the afternoon. These events are for children who are age 3 and older. No registration is required.

July 5, 2014: Silly Summer Cap – Kids will make a headband shaped cap that they can decorate with markers, stars, and pipe cleaners

July 12, 2014: Count and Decorate Octopus – Kids will make a cute octopus craft that helps them count. Each tentacle has a certain number of decorations on it to help kids count from 1 to 8.

July 19, 2014: Wiggly-Eyed Glitter Fish – Kids will make a fish from paper and craft sticks that they can decorate with glitter and a googly-eye.

July 26, 2014: Make & Shake Noisemaker – Kids can make a noisemaker out of a folded paper plate. They can decorate it with markers and glitter.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free kids workshops once a month. Kids receive a certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin. They also get the chance to build a project. Registration is required.

July 5, 2014: Build a Bug House – Kids will learn how to build a bug house that they can actually keep bugs in. This project is for kids ages 5 – 12. The event will start at 9:00 in the morning.

LEGO Club
LEGO offers an in-store mini model building event every month. The event is open to kids who are 6 -14. It starts at 5:00 in the evening. Quantities are limited and offered “while supplies last”.

July 1, 2014: Build a LEGO Beach Van Mini Model Build – It is a little green van with a surfboard on the top.

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