Friday, August 26, 2011

Upcoming Gainesville Class Reminders

Basic Couponing
Tomorrow, Saturday, Aug 27 at 4PM at the Food Lion in Gainesville. 2302 SE Hawthorne Road
Cost $5/person. Net proceeds will be donated to Children's Miracle Network.

Monday, September 19, 5:45-8:15PM at Santa Fe College's Northwest Campus. Coupon Mastery 101

Monday, September 26, 5:45-7:45PM at Santa Fe College's Northwest Campus. Coupon Mastery 102
102 is a follow up class for after you've done a trip or two to the grocery store with coupons. It's mostly a resource class to help answer questions and discuss issues. There will also be an informal coupon swap.

Saving Money with the Internet
Tuesday, September 6th, 5:30-8:30PM at Westwood Middle School. Save Money With The Internet

Mystery Shopping
Saturday, September 24th, 1-3:30PM at Santa Fe College's Northwest Campus. Mystery Shopper 101

Tailor Made Worksheets for Kids
Wednesday, September 7th, 6-8PM at Westwood Middle School. Make Worksheets for Your Child

Keep an eye on the Columbia County Library for more classes in:
Solar Cooking, Alternative Fuel Cooking, Residual Heat Cooking, Couponing, Family Budgeting, Family Entertainment without Electricity on a Budget, and Rice Socks & Sand Sacks.

Don't forget... If you would like to have me teach a class for your group, I can teach all of the above and more anywhere in North Central Florida.
Save (at) Rural Budgeting (dot) com

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Halloween Planning

At this time of year, my Halloween planning ideas start coming. I thought I'd share some Halloween carnival ideas with you. *I don't mind if you want to share these ideas, and I hope you'll try some out, but please don't just copy the whole list and post it elsewhere without asking first.*

The Witch’s Pot – Cauldron with toy lizards, bugs, tree bark, eye balls, etc. The witch asks kids to pull a specific item from her pot. The kids have to search in the pot without looking and pull it out.
Version 2. Have a second container with items in it and have kids search for items to put into the “brew.”
Version 1: Cauldron; witch costume, toy lizards, bugs, tree bark, eye balls, etc.
Version 2: Caldron; Bucket or specimen jars; witch costume, toy lizards, bugs, tree bark, eye balls, etc

Pumpkin Bowling – Bowling pins with fabric tied to them to look like ghosts. Kids roll a fake pumpkin to knock down the ghosts. Younger kids could use an orange ball (basketball).
Bowling pins; fabric; string; a fake pumpkin; orange ball (basketball).

Spider Catch – Fake spiders tied to a rolling bar. Bar rolls up and down and kids try to catch a spider. (Same idea as the duck/prize game) Kids win a prize corresponding to the spider they choose.
Fake spiders; string; rolling bar. (rolling bar can be as simple as a mailing tube suspended from a pvc frame)

The Mystery Witch
Version 1. Paper with a witch hat and face circle drawn on it. Kids draw a face on the witch while blindfolded.
Version 2. As a group, kids each draw a different facial feature on the face while blindfolded.
Version 3. Velcro/felt pieces of eyes, nose, etc. Kids put the facial features on a felt face.
Version 1. Paper with a witch hat and face circle drawn on it; blindfolded; markers; easel/tape to attach to wall
Version 2. Paper with a witch hat and face circle drawn on it; blindfolded; markers; easel/tape to attach to wall
Version 3. Velcro/felt pieces of eyes, nose, etc. ; felt face; felt board/easel/curtain to pin it to.

Belfry of Bats – Felt bats are stuck to Velcro inside a belfry. Kids use a pole with Velcro on it to retrieve as many bats as possible.
Felt bats; Velcro; belfry. (a hollow pyramid shape with a shingle look.); pole with Velcro

5 Little Pumpkins – A sawhorse “gate” 5 pumpkins sit on. Kids pitch bean bags at the pumpkins to knock them down. (For older kids, you could let them knock the pumpkin head off the headless horseman.)
sawhorse “gate;” 5 pumpkins (stuffed fabric ones are best); bean bags.
Older kid version: stuffed body-possibly on a "horse"; platform for a pumpkin  head to sit on; pumpkin; item to throw (bean bag, fake knife, fake torch, pitch fork, etc)

Vampire Fang Toss – A bowl dressed as a vampire. Kids toss vampire fangs into the bowl.
bowl; vampire costume for bowl (cape, etc); vampire fangs. (The bowl could be a wooden board with a hole cut out for a mouth to toss the teeth into.)

Rolling Eyeballs – How far can an eyeball be rolled along a “bridge” over a “crevasse?” (a beam over a construction paper pit) Tape or chalk can be used to mark distances.
eyeball balls; beam/2x4; tape or chalk; decor

Grave Hopping – Tombstones set up to hop or hopscotch on. Tombstones can be foam, rubber, carpet, or cardboard with Velcro or tape on the back so they don’t slip. Older kid version: make standing tombstones to hop over.
Tombstones - foam, rubber, carpet, or cardboard with Velcro or tape on the back so they don’t slip.
Older kid version: free standing tombstones out of styrofoam, foam blocks, cardboard, etc (something that won't hurt if it is fallen on. Be sure to have extras to replace broken ones.)

Mad Scientist Guess – Basically it’s the typical carnival game of a grid of cups and ball to toss into them, but with beakers and a ball or Halloween toy.
beakers; ball or Halloween toy. For fun, fill the beakers with colored liquid. Gatorade makes lots of fun colors. Or, use phosphorescent colors-break open light sticks & necklaces then dilute- and a black light to make it more dramatic and much more difficult. Put items into the beakers to win or to aim for or just for fun.

Bone Hunt – Fabric, newspapers, or leaves fill a coffin. Kids sift through the filler to find and extract the bones inside. They can see how many they can find in 10 seconds or they can see if they can find the parts to construct a whole skeleton. Can be played as a team or individually.
Fabric, newspapers, or leaves; coffin; bone. This is a good use of broken plastic skeletons. Can be done on any scale and bones can be for different types of creatures. 

Halloween Tale(s) – A staff person starts writing a Halloween tale. Kids contribute a couple sentences a piece to the story to make a Halloween tale. If a kid ends the story, a new one can be started. The story can be hung for people to read through the week.
large paper; markers; tape; table or easel

Monster Drop – monster pictures or stickers and put on Popsicle sticks or decorated clothespins. The kids try to drop the "monsters" into a jar. The "jar" could be made to look like a jail cell, castle, grave, etc.
monster pictures or stickers; Popsicle sticks/clothespins; wide mouth jar.

Spider Toss – Put up fake spider webbing in a corner. Kids have try to pitch spiders into the web. Spiders can be plastic, rubber, or made from pipe cleaners.
spider webbing; spiders can be plastic, rubber, or made from pipe cleaners, tape/string to hang webbing.

 Mousetrap Fishing – Set out mouse traps (yes, real mousetraps), lots of them. Give kids a fishing pole with a stuffed mouse/monster/scarecrow/rat/etc on the end. The object is to see how many traps can be caught in a single casting. The game can be played in a corner and a barrier put up for kids to not cross.
Version 2: Number the backs of the traps and have corresponding prizes. Allow the kids to only catch 1 trap.
Version 1: mouse traps, lots; "fishing pole"; stuffed mouse/monster/scarecrow/rat/etc; barrier (benches, yellow half walls, etc)
Version 2:  mouse traps, lots; "fishing pole"; stuffed mouse/monster/scarecrow/rat/etc; marker to mark numbers; prizes in numbered containers; barrier (benches, yellow half walls, etc)

Photo Boo-th – Take pictures of kids in costume and make them available via a the website.
camera, decorations

Staples: Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Ground Beef 8.25.11

I've decided to add potatoes to the basic staples list. Potatoes, like eggs, are considered a "whole food," meaning you can actually live on solely that item for a period of time. Not that you'd necessarily want to.

Albertson's $1.88/18 eggs (through 8/30)
WinnDixie $1.99/18 eggs (through 8/30) *not the best price ever, but not horrible.
CVS $1.39/doz (through 8/27) not great at all, but better than $1.85

Walgreens $3.29
CVS $2.79 after extra bucks (**Starting 8/28**)

WinnDixie is running a Make a Meal deal through 8/30. Buy 3 boxes cereal get milk, juice, donuts, fruit bowls "free" If you have coupons for any of the items on sale, sometimes it's worth it. Without coupons, it usually isn't worth it if the items are things you don't normally buy. (This is how I calculate it. Cereal should be $1.50 or less/box, milk is about $4/gal, juice has to be $1/64oz. The other items I don't buy unless they are free, so if I can use coupons and get the total to $9.50 or less, I'll buy it. It's priced at $17.97 without coupons.)

Publix $2.99 5 lb Domino Sugar $2.49 after coupon from RedPlum insert 6/26 and Sept All You (through 8/31)
Ward's $2.49 4 lb Dixie Crystal (through 8/30) $0.50/1 Dixie Crystals Granulated Sugar Rolling I'm not 100% sure the coupon matches, but I think so. So, it'd be $1.99/4 lbs

Ground Beef
WinnDixie Flanders beef patties 64 oz $6.99 = $1.75/lb (through 8/30) *can't vouch for the quality, but it's a good price poundage wise)
Albertson's 73% lean $1.99/lb (through 8/30)
WinnDixie 73% lean $2.49/lb(through 8/30)
Sweetbay 73% lean $2.49/lb (through 8/30)
Hitchcock's Ground Round $2.68/lb (8/25-27)

Albertson's 85% lean $2.98/lb (through 8/30)
Publix 93% lean $3.99/lb (through 8/24)

Albertson's  $2.50 5 lb bag (8/26-28)
Ward's $2.50 5 lb bag (through 8/30)

**Harvey's note: If you are located near Harvey's check them out on Wednesdays. They seem to be doing Wednesday specials. This week, milk, potatoes, and beef were on sale, but only on Wednesday.

Remember, if you see a price you like and you don't want to go to the distance for that store or to all of them, you can always print the ads offline and take them to Walmart for a price match.
Weekly Specials searched in Gainesville, FL: WinnDixie, Albertsons, Publix, Food Lion, Dollar General, Hitchocks,Sweetbay, Fresh Market, CVS, Walgreens, and Harveys (Keystone Heights)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

School's Starting Soon!

In someways I can't believe it's already August, and in others, school can't start soon enough!

Get ready for school
Keep an eye out for back to school festivals in your area. In High Springs, the Lion's Club will be doing an event from 10-2 on Sat, Aug 6th at the Civic Center. They're giving free hearing and eye exams to 100 children, free hot dogs and drinks to all of the kids, hamburgers and drinks for the adults, backpacks are being given to I believe 500 kids, they'll have sprots physicals, identa kid, bicycle helmets, hair cuts, the fire department and more.

Watch for more school supply sales. This is the time of year to stock up for businesses as well.

Making things easier at home
There are some things you can do to make life easier at home during the school year.

Breakfast and Lunch Menus
We have a menu for each kid. All it is is a piece of paper with lunch choices on one side and breakfast choices on the other. The lunch items are divided into food group sections with a number in each section stating how many can be chosen from each group. The menus are slipped inside gallon zip lock bags and the kids use wet or dry erase markers to indicate their choices for the next day. This way, I know what they want to have for breakfast before they get up, so I can have it ready (or if they make they're own, they don't spend all morning standing in front of the fridge or cupboard trying to decide). Lunch is decided so I can make it the night before, or they can again without the same stupefied look that can plague the decision making process. The menus are updated  with additions and crossing out things as the stock at home changes.

Backpack Hooks
We purchased pool hooks at a yard sale. They're large sturdy hooks with a hole underneath the hook. Seasonally appropriate coats are kept on a hanger hung from the hole in the hook. Backpacks hang from the hook itself. Homework is kept in the backpack on the hook at all times except when being done. This way, when it's time to go, we don't have to search for coats and backpacks.

Lunch Box Cleanup
Each child is in charge of their own lunch box. I refuse to clean up the sticky slimy old food mess in lunch boxes. Each child is in charge of their own drink bottle and lunch box. It gets emptied and cleaned out when they get home, or I get to send them with the extra lunch box (a very embarrassing one) that I have and then they get to clean both out. They also need to remember to bring home their lunch box at the end of the day, or they get the embarrassing one the next day. Most kids are capable of taking care of their own things and a little responsibility is a good thing.

This will be the first year that both kids have a required uniform to wear everyday. I'm looking forward to avoiding the issues that go with choosing clothing everyday. A good suggestion is to have them laid out before bed each night. It makes the mornings a lot easier.

Socks & Underwear
Have you ever heard the cry 20 minutes or less before it's time to leave that someone doesn't have socks or underwear. I have. Here's one solution... keep a "magic" stash where the kids can't find it of socks and underwear for everyone. Then when you hear the cry, you can come to the rescue and know it's time to re-stock the stash that night. You might want to stock a less desired set so that there will be more reason to have everyone responsible for their own clothing and not reliant on you for everything.

Notes for Home
Set up a box for notes home to be put. Then you just need to check the box each evening. The teachers usually give incentives to the kids to have notes signed or turned in on time, you just need to provide a place for them to be dropped off and possibly picked up by the kids (or you can put them in backpacks when complete).

Family Calendar
Families can have crazy schedules at times, especially with older kids. Find one place-by the door, in the kitchen, etc, where everyone will look everyday. Hang a white board, chalk board, or calendar and notepad. Keep writing utensils nearby. Let everyone update the calendar as needed so everyone knows what's going on and what to expect every day. Write reminders and notes to each other and keep a shopping list available so everyone can write down what they need. If your board is large enough, have a "wish" list and a "need" list. It's ok to write notes of encouragement for up coming challenges too. If you can, you can also have a quote of the day or week.

What Next List
When the kids were really little, I had a list of pictures hung for mornings, afternoons, and evenings. The morning one had pictures for changing clothes, including underwear, brushing teeth, using the toilet, eating breakfast, etc. The pictures were hung in a logical order so I didn't have to tell them each step of the process or quiz them on whether they did everything or not. All I had to do was to ask them if they did their "list." It gave them more independence and me more sanity. It also helped them to establish a routine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Looking for Almost Free Groceries?

Head over to for some cheap food this week at Publix, starting Thursday, 8/4 for most stores.

Her prices are based on Atlanta, so you'll need to check your local store, but here's what it looks like so far...
You'll need the coupons. Michelle tells you where to find them.

Ocean Spray 64 oz $0.94 ea
Wishbone Dressing 16oz $0.33 ea
Skippy Peanut Butter 15-16.3oz $0.25ea  (if you buy 4 and have the tear pad, you can get free bread. 4 jars peanut butter plus 1 loaf of bread $1 sounds good to me)
Aunt Jemima Frozen Pancakes or French Toast 12.5-14.8oz $0.35ea has a post on Oral B toothbrushes possibly for $0.33ea. Today is probably the last day.

Today is also the last day for free SnackWell Cereal Bars at WinnDixie. $0.75/1 coupon If you buy 2 boxes, you get a Catalina for $3 off your next purchase. (You can use it on the same purchase if you buy something else - small is fine, maybe the toothbrush and pay a nickle or so in cash, the coupon will print and you can use it right then and probably pay nothing else.)

There are lots of "free" things at CVS this week, but you'll have to pay for at least one of them up front.  has them listed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trustworthy places to find free coupons

You should not pay to get coupons off the internet. You have to download the program, but as long as you're using trust worthy sites, it's really not an issue. Don't download toolbars or pay for them. You might have to give them some information for their demographic tracking, but what information you give them is up to you. I give them my correct name and address and that's about it. Everything else is made up, but I do have standard answers I use because sometimes you need to know what you told them.
and store and manufacturer websites
If you entered your home address when you signed up, they'll most likely send you coupons in the mail too.

The Sunday newspaper is the best place to get coupons. If you call your newspaper circulation desk, you may be able to get multiple copies of Sunday and you may be able to get it cheaper than you can at the store.

ALWAYS get coupons in pairs if you can so you will be ready for BOGO sales. Remember, you can use a coupon on the paid item as well as on the free item.

Also, check matchup sites. They tell you what's on sale, where to get the coupons, and when to buy the items. Here are some good sites to start with. Most of them cover more than one store. It's safe to click on any coupon link in the text of the site, but the ads on the sides may not be safe.,,,,,, Those are some to get you started.


Have you shopped at WinnDixie, Kmart, Food Lion, Albertsons, or WinnDixie (it looks like Hitchcocks has it too, but I don't remember ever getting any) and gotten a coupon from the cash register? Those are Catalinas. Sometimes, it's just coupons for future purchases, and sometimes it's almost the same as cash. Would you like to have a better idea of how to know when you'll get the cash ones? Check out CouponNetwork. It lists all of the current offers and the details so you  know when it's a good time to buy them.

A Successful Shopping Trip!

I thought I'd share my successes this weekend. I managed to save 50% on my grocery bill. Considering I purchased mainly meat, cheese, and fresh produce, that's pretty good, if I do say so myself. Here's what I did, in case you're wondering.

3 boxes SnackWell Bars $2.00 each (I had 3 $0.75/1 coupons and a $3 Catalina printed for the first 2 boxes, run as a separate order, and a $1 ran after the third box.) Total $0.75 for all 3 boxes.
3 pkgs Oscar Mayer Bun Length Hot dogs $2.50 each (1 $1/2 and 1 $1/1 coupon, printed a Catalina for $2) Total  $3.50 for all 3
1.5 lbs Bananas off the reduced rack $0.96
1.5 lbs green beans off the reduced rack $0.99

2 Tyson chicken breast packages $3.49 (2 $1/1 coupons) Total $5.98 for both
2 Dole Cesar Salad kits $2.50 (2 $0.75/1 coupons plus free salad kit with Tyson purchase) Total -$1.50

WinnDixie total spent $10.68 plus a $23.72 credit towards my $50 in fuel perks for 5 cents off/gallon

Food Lion
8 32 oz Gatorade bottles $1 each (I should not have purchased these. I should have purchased the ones at Publix, 64 oz BOGO $2.50. We all make mistakes.)
40 oz Frozen Chicken Tenders BOGO $12.99 (I couldn't find the ones at WinnDixie BOGO $10.99)
2 Red Baron pizzas $3.33 each (2 $1/1 coupons) Total $4.66 for both
3 lbs Food Lion cheese $1.67/8oz pack
Food Lion total spent $35.13 (If I had purchased chicken at Winn Dixie and Gatorade at Publix, I would have saved $5)

3 pkgs Hungry Jack pancake mix $0.99 each (B2G1 coupon) Total $1.98 for all 3
2 bags 48 oz frozen chicken wings $4.98 each
10 lb frozen chicken leg quarters $4.90
Country Style Pork Ribs $1.98/lb $9.13
Boston Butt Pork Steaks $1.48/lb $6.80
2.1 lbs Roma Tomatoes $0.88/lb $1.85
128 oz Sunny D $3.00 (I forgot my coupon. Free with $20 purchase Facebook coupon.)
12 oz bacon $3.50 (Free with $20 purchase Facebook coupon.)
1 dozen eggs $1.85 (Free with $20 purchase Facebook coupon.)
I had a Save A Lot coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase. Hitchcocks takes competitor coupons.
Hitchcocks total spent $29.62

Weekend total $75.43
for 1 doz eggs, 3 gallons of drinks, 5 lbs fresh veggies, 2 pizzas, 3 lbs of cheese, 18 cereal bars, 35.45 lbs of meat.

A note on the Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs... If I had checked the Catalina offers, I would have known to purchase 5 to get $4 in catalina coupons. Then I would have spent $5.50 for 5 instead of $3.50 for 3 (although in reality I would have only saved another 18 cents.)

Groceries for Gas

Many stores are now doing programs where if you buy $XX in groceries, you get reduced gas prices.

WinnDixie has been doing their fuel perks program for sometime now. The WinnDixie in High Springs, Florida just started the program this weekend however. For every $50 you spend at WinnDixie, you get 5 cents off per gallon of gas a specific stations. Some items in the store will give you more cents off/gallon if you purchase them. Look in the weekly ad to find those items. You can also earn 5 cents off per every $50 you spend online at special retailers if you go through the WinnDixie site first. That's a 1% savings. Personally, if I can get cash back through ebates, pennyful, mrrebates, or fat wallet, I'll do that first as long as it's more than 1%. If I can't shop somewhere through them or I'll get less than 1%, I'll go through WinnDixie.

Hitchcocks just started their own fuel program, PumpPerks. Certain items are marked with a cents off/gallon tag. If you purchase those items and scan your card when  you check out and get gas a specific stations, you'll get that amount off when you fill up.

Walmart will give you a 5 cent discount off per gallon if you use a Walmart gift card at Murphy's stations, and a 10 cent discount/gallon if you use a Walmart credit card.

CVS is running a promotion this summer for $10 gas cards if you spend $30 in specific items during the week. That's a good return on your money, 30%. You can also use coupons on the $30, so you don't actually have to spend $30 out of pocket. Watch the items though and make sure you're buying things worth the $30 and not just junk you won't use or don't need to get $10 in gas.

More Free Samples!

Kmart is now doing free samples, as well as Walmart, Target, and Sams!
Kmart currently has a free sample for Atkins bars (3 bars). After you request the sample, you can get a $3 mail in rebate for Atkins. Not too shabby.

Some of the samples the four stores are giving out are for the same items. Sometimes you can request a sample from each store, but normally you can't.

If you're requesting samples for things you may not need or use, consider donating them or giving them to Jeremy for his food drive in September in Lake City, FL.