The Fru-Gal: Weekend family fun for under $50

Contributing columnistMarch 15, 2013 

It’s easy these days to burn through your family’s monthly entertainment budget.

Just going to the movies or bowling sees you paying admissions and even more if your kids want to eat.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can’t afford to enjoy these activities.

In this start of an occasional feature, I’ll offer a look at how I’ve kept my family entertained over the years. We’ll look at ways you can give your family lasting memories for less than $50 on a weekend.

Now that my children are older, I look back at all the crazy events we took part in as they grew up. We’ve gone to plays, concerts, theaters, sporting events, fairs and much more that they’ll always remember.

But you’ve got to keep an open mind and be creative when you’re looking for entertainment for little or no cost. My kids would sometimes look at me and wonder, “What free event is she dragging us to now?” They wouldn’t want to go at first but ended up having a great time.

Events sometimes won’t turn out so good, but at least you didn’t spend a lot to find out. So turn off your TV, put your phone on vibrate and enjoy spending time with your family in a way that won’t stretch your wallet.

In each edition of this feature, we’ll look at a sampling of free activities and inexpensive meal options, and remember these events are just as good for grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren.


■ Your children can make cool crafts from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of each month at Home Depot locations. The kids can imagine themselves as adults wearing the orange Home Depot aprons that they get to take home.

Lowe’s locations also offer a similar program on select Saturdays that are usually different than Home Depot’s, so you and your kids can attend both.

■ Always stop by the customer service desks at your favorite stores to inquire about in-store events.

Toys R Us usually offers events monthly. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, your kids can join Thomas & Friends for a play date with games, activities and coupon savings. From noon to 2 p.m. March 23, older kids will enjoy building a Lego Friends Wishing Well.

■ Products you buy will often have coupons for free activities. My family and I have gone to plenty of movies with free tickets from cereal boxes or candy.

Tony’s frozen pizza products are offering free bowling coupons for a limited time. All you have to do is buy the pizza, and you get not just dinner but a free game of bowling at any of five area alleys. Musselman’s apple sauce is also offering free bowling games on specially marked packages.


■ Through March 19, you can get half off a large Papa John’s pizza by using the code 50PIZZA when ordering online.

■ Make your own kids-eat-free night at Olive Garden by using a printable coupon to get a free kids meal with each adult entree purchased.

■ Don’t forget dessert. When you buy one Blizzard at Dairy Queen through March 24, you’ll get the second for 99 cents.

Deborah Morris’ weekly column, The Fru-Gal, can help you save money. Feel free to share tips on The Fru-Gal blog at and visit her website,

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