The Famous Frugalista Find of the Week — Dining Out on a Dime

When you’re making every dollar stretch ’til it begs for mercy, going out to eat seems like an unaffordable extravagance. Especially during the holidays when you’re trying to pay the bills, buy gifts, and maybe put together a big dinner for family and friends besides. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching! Who’s got anything extra to spend on restaurant meals? (OK, maybe fast food once in a while, but not a real sit-down, served by a waiter, kind of meal.)

I’m always on the lookout for a good deal that helps us hold on to a middle-class lifestyle, even on a skinny little budget. Listen, Cupcake, you don’t have to give up those restaurant meals completely. You can still eat out and save, save, save at the same time!! And you know me, I’m all for saving some serious cash. They don’t call me The Famous Frugalista for nothing, ya know!

Want in on the secret? Of course you do! Just go to restaurant.com and select your state. Up pops a list of cities where you can find some sweet discounts. You can purchase a gift card online with NO fees and NO expiration date. I love that!  A $25 card for $10, all the way up to a $100 card for $40.  Whacking 60 bucks off a nice dinner out — Woo Hoo! Now that’s what I call the Frugalista Way!

restaurant.com

Image by FunnyBiz via Flickr

Check out the list of restaurants in your area, pick out your favorite, and use your discount card when you pay the bill.

Until December 25, there’s a special promo going on — a $25 gift certificate for just $1. You read that right — just one little ol’ simoleon! The catch is that only certain restaurants are honoring this deal. Check the web site to find out if there are any in your area and cash in. I’m all over this deal, Sweetie Pie!

Want more goodies? Check out Specials.Restaurant.com for daily deals like 2 dinners and 2 movie tickets for $25.

And Darlin’, how would you like to give a FREE $10 eCard to a friend, a family member, or just as a random act of kindness? You can send up to 40 a day through December 25, so now’s the time to jump on this special promotion.  Sound too good to be true? I thought so too, but it’s for real.

It’s part of the Restaurant.com Feed It Forward program. All you have to do is create a free account, then follow the step-by-step directions for sending out those $10 eCards. So easy to use and it won’t cost you one red cent. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas . . . Ho, Ho, Ho!

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Image via Wikipedia

I think Santa Claus just pulled up in his sleigh.

Just so you know, I don’t receive any money, discount cards, or anything else from Restaurant.com. I’m  passing along the savings info, in case you want to give it a try. If you do, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a minute to let me know how the gift cards or the Feed It Forward program worked out for you.

© The Famous Frugalista 2011

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Fabulous Freebies at a National Park Near You!

Brrrr!! The nights are getting cooler, the trees are putting on a gorgeous display of color and now’s a great time to get a REAL DEAL at more than 100 National Parks that usually charge $20-25 to get in. Woo Hoo!

There’s a park within a few hours drive from where nearly all of us live, so gas up the family chariot and take a mini-vacation with your family. Spend some time in the Great Outdoors. Get that city smog out of your lungs (hack! cough! wheeze!) and breathe in some fresh, clean air.

Put on your Bucky Beaver Ground Grabbers (that’s tennis shoes, Darlin’) and take a hike. Not into hiking? OK, let’s just call it a stroll then. I’ve already got a feather boa picked out to match my hiking boots and I’m ready to go . . . uh . . . I mean, stroll.

Get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Pack up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and make some memories with your kids or your sweetie.  And guess what, Cupcake? It’s F-R-E-E!

Right about now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch? It usually costs at least $20.00 a carload to get in to any National Park, so how come you’re talking freebie here?”

Here’s the secret. . . Every year there are no-entrance fee days.. Even a couple of weekends. And one entire week in April. Free. No charge. Absolutely nada. Sweet!

You’ve got one shot left this year — November 11-13. That’s right, Veteran’s Day weekend. And it’s comin’ up soon, so mark your calendar. Hey, call it an “Expedition” and get the whole dang family involved in planning it. What’s not to love?

Here are the fee-free dates for 2012. There are 17 in all:

• January 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend)

• April 21-29 (National Park Week)

• June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)

• September 29 (National Public Lands Day)

• November 10 – 12 (Veterans Day weekend)

There’s also something called The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. That’s a mouthful! Here’s the deal with that. It gets you into 2,000 + federal recreation sites and you won’t have to take out a loan or hock the family silver to make it happen.

The pass is free if you have a permanent disability. For people 62 and over, it’s a mere $10 for a lifetime pass. And you thought getting older was just about gray hair! HA! Getting older does have some benefits so take advantage of ’em, Baby Doll.

You don’t fit either one? No problemo. An annual pass is $80 and anyone qualifies. Yeah, I know $80 sounds like a lot to lay out all at once. But think of it this way — if you use it just 6 times a year, that’s less than 15 smackers for a whole day of fun. And there are tons of freebies thrown in too. Here’s just a sample of goodies you don’t have to shell out a dime to enjoy:  ranger-led fall foliage tours, Junior Ranger activity books and programs, history walks like the Going Bunkers tour at Ft. Hancock, or spend an afternoon fossil hunting. Every park offers something different but there are free events and activities at each one. Such a deal! Now that’s saving money, Frugalista-style.

Before you go, check out How to See National Parks Like a Pro.

Family Film Festival — the Frugalista Way!

Love going to the movies? Scarfin’ down that hot, buttered popcorn and slurpin’ on an ice cold soda? Yeah, me too — but wowza! The cost! Yikes!! Just for one person, you better figure on spending about $14.00 for a ticket and a couple of snacks. Add in your spouse and maybe two or three kids and KACHINGYou’ve laid out close to 60 bucks for about 90 minutes of entertainment. What a pain in the pocket book! Especially when you don’t have a big fat wallet.

OK, OK. You could take in a matinee and save a little moola on the tickets (around $3.50 each), but you’re still going to be forking over some pretty big bucks for the munchies. And what’s a movie without yummy snacks, right? There’s a better way, Cupcake!

Wanna know how? A Family Film Festival, that’s how! A FREE movie. (I’m not kidding.) Frugalicious snacks. (Oh, don’t panic. I’m gonna show you how to make ’em and they’re real easy.) You don’t have to get all dressed up, schlep into town, and wait in line to get in. Hey, hang out in your PJs if you want. And create some warm, fuzzy memories of a special evening with your family.

Did I mention you’re gonna put it all together for less than ten bucks?      Woo Hoo! Oh yeah, now we’re talkin’ entertainment, Frugalista-style!

Got a library card, Darlin’? Good, because that’s where you’ll head first to grab a FREE movie or two. Are they first run, just released movies? Nope, Cupcake, they’re not. But they’re F-R-E-E.  .  . As in no cost. What did you expect?

If you can’t find something your family will enjoy, you’re just not trying. Disney movies, some pretty terrific classics, Westerns, mysteries, comedies, dramas, they’re all available. I live in a small town and our library has hundreds of movies and DVDs. Yours probably has even more to choose from. Bring your kids along to help you pick out the evening’s entertainment. The price is right, so go ahead and make it a double feature if you want.

Now that you’ve got the movie line up taken care of, it’s time to put together some serious (and totally tasty) snack food. Here’s a quick, easy, and CHEAP recipe for caramel corn. Trust me, it’s way better than what you buy in a box at the store. Frugalicious!!!

Home-Made Caramel Corn

2 c. brown sugar

2 sticks butter or margarine

1/2 c. corn syrup

1 tsp. salt

6 quarts popped corn

Pop the popcorn and set aside. (Hint:  It’s much easier to mix if you divide the popcorn up into a couple of BIG bowls or pots.)

In a large sauce pan, boil the brown sugar, butter or margarine, corn syrup, and salt together for 5 minutes. Stir frequently so the mixture doesn’t stick to your pan. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up quite a bit.

Pour the foamy mixture over the popcorn and stir well.

Spread the popcorn mixture on cookie sheets and bake in 200 degree oven for an hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let the caramel corn cool.

To keep it crisp, store in a covered container. (We’ve never been able to keep it around long enough for it to get stale!)

This recipe makes two  gigantic bowls of caramel  corn.

  Cost:  Around $3.00    (using magarine)

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Move some chairs around to create “theater seating.” Toss some pillows and blankets on the floor. Everybody get nice and comfy. Bring out those big bowls of caramel corn and some cold drinks and you’re all set. TA-DA! It’s Family Film Festival time. Roll those credits, Cupcake, and take a bow!

© The Famous Frugalista — 2011