Frugal Family Footnotes
Thrifty fun – there’s lots to do for free!
July 25, 2011
by Kristi Hiivala

 Let me introduce myself: My name is Kristi Hiivala, I’m from Cokato, and I am the woman you see at the grocery store with more kids in my cart than groceries and my fists clutching handfuls of coupons.

I am a stay-at-home mom of three adorable kids, but don’t let the title fool you. Rarely is there a day that we actually “stay-at-home.” Instead, we are often running from one place to the next, as if there is a race to see how many things we can get accomplished in one day.

There are reasons why the 8 p.m. bedtime is strictly enforced in our household, and the number-one reason is because mom is tired!

I recently discovered a new hobby, one that even this exhausted mom can handle. The latest trend to hit America: couponing.

Couponing used to have a stigma to it, not unlike that of those poor souls who are relegated to driving a minivan because of capacity to seat all of their children (one of those poor souls is me). You heard it here first: couponing and saving money is now cool!

Want to pay less for things you were already going to buy? Take the kids out to eat for free? Provide hours of entertainment for very few dollars?

Living on a tight budget often means that unless you can find a good deal, you end up having to find something to do at home. Lucky for us – home is in the Dassel and Cokato area and there is a lot to do around here inexpensively.

Shake up the summer routine

It’s mid-July and board games have lost some pieces, the Slip-N-Slide has a rip in it, and the kids are starting with the “I am bored” chants. Need something cheap and fun to do? Check out these ideas:

• Collinwood Park (south of Cokato) offers a playground most suitable for preschoolers through preteens, a beach for swimming, and walking trails. And it is free – bring a picnic for lunch and swimsuits for a dip in the lake on a hot day (the trails are mostly dirt, so leave the bike and jogging strollers at home).

Tip: Meet another family there for fun – the bathrooms are a little bit of a walk so it’s nice to have more than one adult to divide and conquer.

• ECFE playground (west side of high school complex). This free public playground is great for toddlers through elementary-aged children. Complete with a sandbox to dig in and benches for adults to sit on, this area is a great stop for mid-morning/mid-afternoon romps to let the little ones get their energy out.

Tip: The best thing about this playground is that it is fenced and gated – sit back and relax while the kiddos play in one place!

• Muller Family Movie Theater (Delano): Too hot, or is it raining outside? You are in luck if it is a Thursday! The Delano movie theater is offering a free Summer Movie Series Thursday mornings at 10:00 a.m.

Each week there will be one movie playing for free:

July 21 - “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”

July 28 - “How to Train Your Dragon”

Aug. 4 - “Planet 51”

Aug. 11 - “Bee Movie”

Aug. 18 - “Shrek Forever”

It is at the parent’s discretion as to how young/old your child should be to see these movies, but it is best suited for the preschool through middle school crowd.

Tip: Get there early to ensure a good seat, and bring a pocketful of change to splurge on a bucket of popcorn for the kids to share.

• Huikko’s Bowling Center (Buffalo). Another inside activity where the price is right (provided you bring your coupon) is bowling. Go to www.kidsbowlfree.com and register each child in your household for two free games of bowling each day this summer. This includes weekends, too. It’s a great way to spend a few hours in air-conditioning, and wear funny looking shoes.

Tip: Unless your kids each own a pair of their own bowling shoes, you will have to rent them ($2.50 per pair).

Check back on this new column often for more tips, tricks, and ideas on how to save money locally – information on couponing, cheap family entertainment, and deals to energize even the most sleep-deprived parents.

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