There are many wonderful things to do when your kids are home for the summer. Many don’t cost anything to participate in or to visit. Here are some fun ideas to keep your kids busy and you sane until school starts up again.
Most areas have historical sites, parks and even petting zoos that are free or donation requested. To find out what attractions you and your little ones can go to check out the website: http://free-attractions.com/ . You can plan both small trips for in your local area as well as day trips to places farther away in your state or a neighboring state.
Sometimes you can go on a trip with no destination in mind. Take a long drive as a family. Point out animals and trees to your children as you drive past. Indulge in a family audio book or a favorite music CD. At the end of the drive have lunch or a small picnic. Let the kids fall asleep in the back seat on your way back home. Enjoy the silence.
Set up times to visit a retirement center. Help your neighbor with their yard or garden. Attend birthday parties and holiday BBQs. Throw some celebrations of your own. Bring the neighborhood together as well as get your kids out of the house.
Participate in summer reading programs at the library. Take the craft or art classes offered by the local home improvement or crafting store. Sometimes even art centers, parks and community centers offer a free class for parents and children.
Use the back yard, a national park or a KOA. Take advantage of the activities provided. Swim, canoe, identify plants, set up tents, and roast hot dogs and marshmallows over an open flame. Sing camp songs late into the night and sleep in.
There are many free events to participate in. There are open air concerts and annual festivals. I know of one area that does a rubber duck race once a year. Check out your local newspaper to find out what events are happening in your area.
A woman’s work is never done, and that’s why it’s important for us to stop and breath every now and then. The only problem is finding the time. Often we, as moms, wives, and employees put ourselves on the back burner until we are all burned out. Here are a few things that you can do to change that.
Know The Science
Stressing yourself out with an overfilled schedule will not help you make or save money. The truth is when we are stressed we spend more. We spend on relaxation techniques. We spend on comfort food. We spend on books that teach us to de-stress, but we never read them because we are too busy stressing out.
Not only that there are the medical ramifications of stress. It destroys sleeping habits, eating habits, and our immune system. We don’t take the time to let our body rest or heal when we are ill. It can cause our body to tear itself apart from the inside.
It is said that when you prioritize things in your life, those things in your life that shouldn’t be there will fall out of it. Often we bite off more than we can chew. Take the things that are important to you ( family, friends, work, etc.) and set a schedule for them. Those things that lack importance (like television reruns from the 90’s) will go to your back burner instead of you or work or your family life.
The next thing we need to do is accept that we are not super human. We can’t fit everything we need to do into one day, though it doesn’t stop most of us from trying. An overfilled schedule not only reduces the chance to take a much needed break, it leaves you with a short fuse and an unhappy family. Spread your chore list out throughout the week. It’s easier to get a few big items taken care of per day than a month’s worth.
It’s not that we don’t appreciate mom enough to splurge on her. It’s that we just don’t have a budget that will cooperate with splurging all that much. Here are a few tips for those that fall into this category.
While I’m sure mom would love the coffee filter flowers, there is a more refined crafted flower out there to make for mom. Check out Instructables.com for a few flower crafting ideas. They may take a bit of time but they will be very pretty for mom and will last longer.
If paper flowers just aren’t in your crafting ability pick up some fake flowers at the dollar store. Remove the petals from the stems and leaves and mix and match the petals. Then put the new flowers back together. You will end up with more colorful and fuller flowers. To go the extra mile outline the petals with a gold, silver, or matching glitter glue.
Cards are easier than ever to make, and you can get as creative as you would like without spending a dime. Upload a family picture to Picmonkey.com and use overlays, framing, and color tinting to turn it into a great visual. Add some loving words in a nice font. You can either have it printed and mailed out, or send it as an attachment to your mom in an email. If you aren’t sure you’re that tech savvy you can also use Punchbowl.com to create and send mom a digital card. They have step by step instructions to get you through the process.
A Gift of Self
When you have a talent, share it with your mom. Make a dinner for her and bring paper products or do the dishes so she doesn’t have to. Start a garden with her or let your children start a garden with her. Spend time through out the year tending the garden. You could also make a blanket or quilt for her if that is your gift.
Vegetables are good. Even if you’re the type who shudders at the thought of salad or hide a grimace when you’re served green beans at a dinner party, there’s got to be at least one or two vegetables you absolutely love!
Vegetables can seem pricey, even frozen ones. One of the most common complaints from people who are watching their budgets are that veggies cost a lot per pound. In my local grocery stores, a SALE price for a single bell pepper is $1! Often they’re $1.50, even for a green pepper, which are usually cheaper than red or yellow peppers! If you do catch a decent sale on some vegetables, you will want to use every last bit of them. If spinach is on sale, don’t buy it JUST because it’s $0.50 per head, but will sit in the back of your refrigerator until it goes bad because you don’t know how to cook it. Instead:
Buy vegetables you like. Maybe the produce you buy isn’t as varied as you’d like to it be, but if you are used to and are comfortable cooking onions, for example, you’re more likely to use them in recipes you will eat before they go bad.
Make soup. Soup is amazing in that you can basically make up a recipe and it will generally taste good, and since you cook it for a while, veggies that are not-so-great can get thrown in there. Celery starting to go soft and your kids hate it when it’s not crisp? Chop it up and throw it in a soup! The soft texture is right at home in a soup!
Use every last bit. After making dinner, you might have a pile of carrot tops and onion ends sitting on your counter. Don’t throw them out—they’re still useful! Do you have a garden outside? Compost them! Do you make soup a lot? Freeze your veggie ends and pieces until you have enough to boil for a broth, and make homemade broth! There are plenty of things to do with vegetables that don’t necessarily involve eating them. How else do you use up everything you buy?
Frugality isn’t just all about saving money. I mean, at its core, I guess it is, but there is more to frugality than just keeping a sharp eye on your checkbook balance. Not being organized can actually end up with you spending more than you need to.
For instance, say you have some stacks of books lying around that you’ve been meaning to find a place for. You head to the store and buy a couple of bookcases that are on sale. Maybe you even had a coupon on top of that! Great savings, huh? But then you get home and find out that one of the bookcases is a couple of inches too long for your wall and lies over the doorjamb. And even though the bookcases looked big in the store, it turns out all of your books won’t fit on them! You shove the extras on top of the bookcases and intend to buy some bookends, but you’re disappointed in how things have gone.
By organizing first you can avoid this situation. You can set aside some time—just ten minutes!—before you head to the store. Look at your books and pick out the ones you never, ever read, and realistically never will. Put them in a box to donate or give away. Believe me, I love books and my husband is a librarian, so I know how hard this can be, but it is also hard to be frugal when you have too much stuff. After you’ve pared down your collection, whip out a measuring tape and measure your space. Bring it along to the store, and measure those shelves that are on sale. If they won’t fit—don’t buy them! It’s not really saving money if the shelves don’t fit and you hate how cluttered they will look trying to squeeze them on the wall anyway. By taking just a few minutes to organize and measure your space—and of course, this goes for far more than just books—you can maximize y our frugality by not buying things you don’t actually have the space for.
We all want home cooked meals and homemade bread. We just may not be able to fit it into our daily schedule. We may, however, be able to fit it into a weekly schedule by dedicating a whole day all to the kitchen craft.
Get a System Going
Baking can either cost money in ingredients that you never get around to using or save money because you have a set time and way to get your baking done. Consider how much bread you will need. If you need more than the one or two loafs that are produced by the recipe you can double the recipe. This can help you make four loaves worth of bread rather than the two set forth by your recipe. Providing you have enough bread pans (or muffin pans if your family prefers a hand held form of carbs) and a big enough oven you can make double the bread in the same amount of time. This reduces the chances of needing to run out and buy store bread in the middle of the week.
Set a Schedule
A bread baking day does not have to be all about baking. Often the time it takes to make bread or cook a crock pot soup is waiting. We wait for the slow cooker to cook the food. We wait for the bread to rise and cook. We wait until our food is cool enough to store or eat. During a baking day use a schedule and set a timer. After that go about other household activities. While it is best to stay home with cooking projects turned on, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be your laundry day.
A cooking day or baking day isn’t just about preparing wholesome breads and frozen soups to feed you family for a week. It is also about treating your family. The smells bring good memories down the line. The tastier baked goods can also be used to buy your children’s help in the kitchen. For the cookies you can have the help sweep the floor. Doing the dishes for you constitutes baking a pie. Making baked goodies only a baking day treat will both get you assistance and bring a positive reaction to your family when your kitchen dwelling day rolls around.
Everywhere we looks there are deals. We have sales on food products, decoration products, and any other type of product we can think of. There are coupons that will get you two products for the price of one or at least fifteen cents off. That doesn’t mean that we should cash in on every bargain that comes our way.
You Use It
The truth of the matter is that an item is only worth any type of money if we can use it. It’s easy to decide not to buy cat food when you don’t have a cat (and all of us have the common sense not to make that purchase), but what about when the product is something else. When you buy an article of clothing you can determine if you will use it by thinking of a working outfit to go around it based on your current wardrobe. When you can’t think of anything you own to go with your potential purchase it’s time to accept, no matter how cute the shoes are, you can’t make them fit into your current wardrobe.
You Have Room For It
This may come as a shock to the Thrifty Diva, but many people own a whole bunch of stuff they don’t even live with. That’s why the storage unit business is doing as well as it does. When you own more stuff than can fit in your living space, two things can happen. Either you spend to keep your stuff somewhere else, or you need to get rid of stuff you already have. There is a third option of living in a hoarder’s paradise, but few of us can handle that kind of hoarder environment.
You Actually Need A Replacement
There is always a newer model of the same old product on store shelves. This is true of everything from cars to waffle irons. Many of us feel the need to replace things we have with better looking counterparts with more features. That within itself is not a bad thing, but make sure you really need to update what you have. It’s also important to once again ask yourself if you will use, not just the product, but the new features you are paying to get.
Of course, the easiest way to save money on buying meat is… to not buy any meat at all. Beans and rice are cheap and tasty, a dietary staple in many cultures around the world. But if you consider yourself and your family to basically be “obligate carnivores” as my family does, you may struggle to keep meat in your diet while keeping money in your bank account as well. Here are a few tips on how to buy meat on a budget.
Buy large portions. Large pieces of meat generally cost less per pound than smaller cuts—after all, there’s less work involved in wrapping up a whole roast, compared to chopping it up and packaging several steaks in multiple containers. You may end up spending more money up front, but if you can freeze what you don’t mean to eat right away, you will spend less in the long run.
Buy discounted meat. Use some caution here, but this is generally a good tactic in chain supermarket stores. When unsold meat gets about a day away from its “sell by” date, supermarkets often mark down these packages to sell them quickly. If the meat is still unsold on its “sell by” date, those packages are marked down even more, 50 or even 75% off. The supermarket would rather sell the meat cheaply and still make a little money instead of having to dispose of it! If you buy meat on its “sell by” date, be sure to use it immediately, so it doesn’t spoil.
Buy ends and pieces. Not making a centerpiece meal for your company’s CEO any time soon? Often, markets and delis sell “ends and pieces” at a discount. These might be irregularly shaped bits of bacon, or the round ends of deli meats that won’t be on a magazine cover any time soon, but are still perfectly good to eat. And if you are just stuffing them in a sandwich or chopping them up to put in a stew anyway, no one will even notice!