Camping Out West Part 3- Buying Food


The big planning is out of the way, you arrive in Las Vegas, and now you’re ready to relax. Not so fast. Camping still requires you get the right amount of food: not too much, not too little, just right, Goldilocks. As I often buy in volume to save $, this was a tough one for me initially. But you have to keep telling yourself: only buy what you need. The rest is wasted. Find the smallest containers for ketchup, mayo, mustard, maple syrup, etc. Check your recipes. If you only need 5 potatoes, don’t buy 3 pounds. I say this to save you money AND space in your already cramped rental car. Only buy what you need for one week and then restock.

When you arrive at the store, find the produce guy and pick up three banana boxes with the lids. They’re good sizes, are sturdy, and stack well. They also enable you to separate food into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast you’ll want cereal and oatmeal for the days you pack up, coffee and hot cocoa, and pancakes for the more relaxed mornings. The lunch box is often filled with breads, peanut butter, chips,
apples & oranges, and trail mix. The dinner box has pasta, potatoes, corn, canned goods, etc. Then the cooler is your fridge: milk, butter, meats, chocolate, cheese, etc.

Here are our favorite dinners:

Night 1: fresh rotisserie chicken, wild rice, steamed broccoli

Night 2: fresh tortellini in alfredo sauce, frozen peas, French bread

Night 3: leftover chicken in quesadillas, canned corn and black beans

Night 4: foil packets of already cooked sausage, fresh corn, potatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Add a little butter and olive oil to help steam. Splurge for “heavy duty foil” to prevent disaster.

Night 5: hotdogs, baked beans, corn chips

Bring coupons if you want, but you’ll save more by buying less. Stick with stores that don’t require cards for savings or ask them to give you a card. Yes, that saved me $15. In Nevada and California, be prepared for higher prices than in Knoxville; I estimated 30-40% higher across the board except for alcohol. Avoid glass while camping; good wine can come in boxes these days and is sold in grocery stores. Your biggest savings will be sticking to your meal plans: eating breakfast at the campsite or for free in your hotel, packing lunches for hikes, and keeping snacks handy in the car for long drives. It adds up quickly.

And since some campsites don’t have showers, pick up a pack of baby wipes. They’ll get you through a few days. Also buy small Kleenex packs and a small bottle of hand sanitizer that you keep with you at all times. Hey, you never know!

If you missed Part 1- The Budget you can read it here or Part 2- Planning you can read it here.

Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.

Zoo Knoxville Touch A Truck Event Saturday, Aug. 20th


This Saturday, Zoo Knoxville zoo-goers can get hands-on with big trucks, emergency vehicles, race cars and special equipment that rival the animals for size and speed. Touch A Truck, presented by Meade Tractor, will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. To make the day even more fun, the first 500 children age 12 and under to arrive will receive a free child’s-sized construction hat.

Visitors can get up close to a wide variety of heavy duty construction equipment from Meade Tractor, Blaine Construction and the Zoo Knoxville “Zookeeper” dump truck from Claiborne Hauling. Climb aboard a fire truck from Knoxville Fire Department and a Knoxville Police Department police car and meet the personnel who make Knoxville a safe place to live. Guests can also enjoy the view from way up in the driver’s seat of a City of Knoxville Public Service Department tractor, see what life in the fast lane is like with cars and drivers from Warrior Race Cars and get rugged with Big Foot Jeep from Smoky Mountain Jeep Club.

Touch A Truck activities are included with general zoo admission. For more information, please visit the zoo’s Web site at, the zoo’s Facebook page at or call the zoo at (865) 637-5331.

Camping Out West Part 2 : The Planning


The key to a successful national park adventure is proper planning. With the centennial celebration of the National Park Service this year, they are more popular than ever. Every campsite we visited was full, and some filled up within seconds of booking windows being open; not exaggerating!

We started with mapping out what we wanted to see and how long we needed at each location. Our favorites made a nice loop starting and ending in Las Vegas. Since Allegiant only flies from Knoxville to Vegas on select days, we picked ideal flights and worked from there. Sign up for their emails so that you can be first to know when they run specials like we got.

Allegiant is super cheap, but the add-ons can add up quickly. I suggest you pay for your checked bags when you book because it’s cheaper. We checked five, but we could have used one more. Allegiant limits the weight to 40 pounds a bag vs the 50 pounds on most airlines. Weigh your bags ahead of time to avoid more fees! And make one of them a cooler. We all carried small backpacks that fit under the seat to avoid the “carry-on baggage” fees. Pack your own snacks and water bottles to avoid pricey in-flight snack charges. Unfortunately, even on a direct flight, Allegiant lost one of our bags—the cooler. Make a list of everything in each bag. We were able to replace its contents at Wal-mart and REI, but it did cost us time.

For rental cars, it pays to book well in advance. We reserved a car right after booking airfares in January. SUVs are almost always cheaper than mini-vans, but get what you need for your family. Just make sure you read the fine print to get “unlimited miles within the states you plan to visit.”


Since setting up campsites can be time and energy consuming, I suggest staying at least two nights at every location. You’ll thank me later. We stayed two nights at Grand Canyon, three in Zion (with a day trip to Bryce), two in Kings Canyon (with a day trip through Sequoia), and four nights in Yosemite. Note: each site is limited to six people, but if you book with friends who have five in their family, you can space out a family of seven. Hint, hint: Coupon Katie.

Most national park campsites book six months in advance; Yosemite is four months. Check for details of parks that interest you. All reservations are done online, often at 10am EST on the 15 th of the month. And when I say 10am, you better be Johnny on the spot, ready to hit that button at 10am. As three families planning a reunion in Yosemite, we had six adults with individual accounts trying to nab 12 specific sites (one each on computers and one on mobile). Out of 12 attempts, only three were successful in the first two seconds. Thankfully that’s all we needed, but if you want Yosemite during peak summer times, you have to be a shark! Check here for more tips

Your last step before you go is packing clothes. Lay out what you think you need and then put half away. Not kidding. You’re camping without showers for possibly days. What difference does it make if you wear clothes more than once?! We packed one weeks’ worth and then washed them at a hotel before week two. We fit almost all our clothes in one suitcase and then separated them into mesh bags so that everyone could find their clothes easily in the tent.

I suggest two sets of pants that can zip off as shorts, leggings for girls, 5 t-shirts, 1 extra layer for cooler mornings, 1 bathing suit, 3 good hiking socks you can wash at the campsite, clean undies every day, a hat and sunglasses, and only 3 pairs of shoes per person: hiking boots, close toed water shoes, and flip flops / Chacos / Tevas.

If you’ve managed to get your flights, rental car, and campsites, the rest is cake. Relax and look forward to spontaneity when you arrive.

If you missed Part 1- The Budget you can read it here.

Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.

Camping Out West Part 1: The Budget

Guest post by Margaret Slattery


Since Katie and I share two passions—camping and couponing—I offered to share some of the tips and lessons learned from our recent trip out west to seven national parks. Our family of five includes three kids ages 12, 9, and 7, and we are all fairly seasoned car campers. However, this summer we took it to the next level.

For 14 days, our family drove 2000 miles to explore some of America’s most spectacular venues: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon,Yosemite, and Death Valley. We never skimped on experiences and managed to stay within our budget of $3500. Here are our expenses in a nutshell; I’ll go more in-depth with how we saved in future posts.



Since Knoxville to Grand Canyon is about 1800 miles, you’d need an extra 4-5 days to drive vs fly. When Allegiant opened direct flights to Las Vegas for $69 each way,we jumped on them. Now that’s just the lure you in fare. Once we paid for taxes and fees, five checked bags, and the privilege of sitting together, RT tickets were about $200 a person. Total: $1054.


We rented a Nissan Pathfinder through Budget that allowed unlimited miles within the states we would be driving—an important detail to check. We were packed in like a puzzle with zero extra space, but we managed. Total (including gas): $661.


Since most of our nights were spent at campsites within national parks, we usually only spent $20-$25/night. For our first night, last night, and one in the middle, we booked moderate hotels. By one week in, we were all ready for a pool, showers, and laundry facilities. Total: $627.


We purchased most of what we needed in two shopping trips: one at the beginning, and one mid-way. We bought ice and firewood every other day and ice cream as treats occasionally. The few times we did go out to dinner equaled the amount we spent on groceries, reminding us you really do save money by preparing your own meals. Total: $734.


The nice thing about national parks is that once you’re in, there’s usually little extra expense to enjoy the park. We’re used to no entry fee to the Smokys, but most national parks charge $20-$30 entry. The annual pass for all parks runs $85. This year, if you have a fourth grader, s/he can get the whole family in for free. Ask your teacher when you return to school.

Your first stop to every national park should be the visitor center. They’re like mini-museums, they list loads of free programs, and suggest hikes suitable to various skill levels. The Junior Ranger Programs are awesome for elementary age kids. Shuttle buses providing often the easiest transportation inside parks are also free. Our one splurge was horseback riding: $200 for the family. We let the kids pick out small souvenirs at each place. I recommend the tokens you can collect or decks of cards from each park. Total: $418.

Note: I did not count costs for camping gear required for a trip like this: a tent, sleeping pads & bags, cook sets, hiking shoes & poles, camelbacks, etc. because we had those from previous trips. If you’re starting from ground zero, expect to invest another $1000-$1500 for good gear, but hey, it’s an investment for lots of trips. And I would suggest if you’re new to camping, start small with a weekend getaway close to home and borrow gear from a friend.


Margaret is a freelance writer in Knoxville, TN. She writes and produces for HGTV and has been couponing since 2009.

DollyWood’s Splash Country Half Off Admission August 13, 2016


Dollywood’s Splash Country is partnering with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Knoxville to raise money for families with critically-ill children being treated in area hospitals. The first 600 guests who mention Ronald McDonald House at Dollywood’s Splash Country before noon on Saturday, Aug. 13 will receive 50% off a regular or child admission ticket.

One-hundred percent of the monies raised during this special event benefit Ronald McDonald House of Knoxville as it serves as a home away from home for families during their time of need. Dollywood’s Splash Country has been a proud supporter of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Knoxville since 2003. The water park has donated more than $309,000 to the non-profit in that time.

Pokemon GO Week at Zoo Knoxville! $10 Admission!!


Zoo Knoxville has declared August 1-7, 2016, as Pokémon GO Week.  Players who show the Pokémon GO app on their mobile devices at the ticket window will receive $10 zoo admission for each member of their party to the zoo!!!

Zoo Knoxville has 15 Pokéstops and three gyms in the park, and to help attendees catch plenty of characters, lures will be dropped throughout each day of the week, with updates on their locations shared on the Zoo Knoxville Twitter feed (@zooknoxville).


It is SO Hot. Remember $1Regal Summer Movie Express, Free Bowling

Summer Movie Express 1 Dollar Movies

Regal  Cinemas  is still hosting their Summer Movie Express! Family friendly movies are just  $1 each throughout the summer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In our area, Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX, Regal Knoxville Center Stadium 10 and Regal West Town Mall Stadium 9 are participating in this promotion.   Tickets available for purchase at the box office and all movies start at 10:00 am. Each week both movies play on both days.
Here is the schedule:

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If your looking for more frugal fun don’t forget  Kid’s bowl free all summer, Free summer reading programs (Tennesse Smokies & More) and Carmike Summer Movie Series.