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Melanie Mayo 01-06-2013 11:35 PM

This week Mothering is celebrating frugal living in all of its forms and we need your help.


Tell us, what super frugal ways have you found to spend fun time together as a family? Post your tips in this thread and we'll turn your suggestions into an article to share with moms looking for frugal living ideas!


Also, check out our featured article of the week: Five Ways Frugal Living Benefits Kids by Laura Grace Weldon.



LoveOurBabies 01-07-2013 06:30 AM

I love Laura's website - Great article!!


Having girls, one low cost activity stands out to me - Having a tea party at home. It's just the water, 1-2 tea bags (for the pot), 1 cup of milk, sugar/honey and some home made cookies (or inexpensive store bought ones). The kids spend some time first writing up the invitations & then handing them out to eachother.. This can take a while because they like to decorate them. They then get dressed in their best attire and set up the table (and decorate with fresh flowers from the garden).. the party itself can go on for an hour. If you bake your own cookies, then you could easily add another hour of fun to the event. Some days we have made an entire afternoon out of the tea party (when you factor in baking, invites, getting dressed and setting up and then the actual party). We sit around pretending to be silly, chit-chatty, poshy ladies who live in grand mansions. It's also wonderful practice for good manners & patience.

Pass the sugar please.. teapot2.GIF

JunebugsMom 01-07-2013 07:35 AM

Our local libraries have fantastic free programs for kids.  We do kids yoga once a week and kids crafts once a month.  Sometimes chess club, magic shows, storytime, concerts, science shows.


The first Tuesday of the month our city offers free admission to various museums/gardens.


Of course the park, playgroup, and playdates are my children's absolute favorites.

parsley 01-07-2013 07:49 AM

We find endless fun with our homemade water table.  We use a large storage box that once held baby blankets as our water table.  When we are looking for some semi-structured indoor fun we can do one of the following:

-freeze big blocks of ice the night before and then watch them melt, chip the ice, play iceberg, etc...  Adding food coloring to these makes for lots of rainbow fun and color mixing.  Freezing different shapes (like muffin tins and baking pans) makes for even more variation.

-building boats and floating them around.

-growing floral water beads

-popping ping pong balls in and out.

-playing in the snow (scooping some up from outside).

-and regular water play with kitchen toys too


I'm looking forward to buying some bulk rice and making it a rice table in the future too.

woodchick 01-07-2013 02:17 PM

Some things we do for free/cheap:


Board games at the library- we've found in several libraries that they often keep board games tucked away in the office for 'in library' use only.  My girls love to play different games than the ones we have at home and often find new playmates as we set the games up.


Ice Skating-  We found a rink that has free open skate certain days of the week.  We bought skates at the thrift shop (or check Freecycle!) to save on the rental fees.


Hike- our area has tons of kid friendly hiking paths that we had no idea about until we starting looking into it.


Snail Mail-  it's only the cost of a stamp, and my girls get a kick out of making art or writing letters and then sending them off to local friends and far off grandparents.

Katielady 01-07-2013 02:45 PM

We love the botanical garden, esp in spring, and really take advantage of our membership.


Other ideas:


-building a fort in the backyard out of fallen branches. We're working on a huge sturdy teepee right now.

-pizza and board game night- the kids love this, and it doesn't cost much!

-baking bread

-start a nature journal or list of wildlife you see on your hikes. This has really helped my son stay interested; at 6 he gets a little bored by "nature walks," but if we have a goal in mind like seeing how many different shaped leaves we can find, or how many birds we can identify, it keeps him interested.

-for a few years we participated in a community garden. The kids loved it, it was more social than backyard gardening, and we got great cheap organic produce!

ollyoxenfree 01-07-2013 05:54 PM



- toboggan (we had a huge amount of fun last week with 3 adults and a couple of 16 y.o's on a wicked hill near our cottage, using boogie boards as makeshift sleighs) 

- skate (free public skating at an arena or build a backyard rink or if you are really lucky, on a frozen pond)

- hiking

- playing in snow - make snowmen and snow angels, build snow forts, have a snowball fight (with all the obligatory safety precautions.....) 

- study snowflakes, do experiments with snow and ice and water 

- we make up our own games - hybrids of hockey and curling and golf on ice, using branches and rocks 

- snow volleyball 





- swim (free family swim at the pool or go to the beach) 

- splash in a fountain (we've lived in a couple of cities with large fountains that you can walk through or into) 

- outdoor music concerts in the park (often free or low cost admission) 

- hiking, nature walks 

- picnics in the park

- pick up soccer or baseball or again, make up a hybrid game or play old-fashioned favourites like hide and seek or kick the can 

- kite building and flying


Year round


- There are often local or small community neighbourhood celebrations with parades or street parties 

- Farmer's markets are often fun to browse around and the kids can each have a few dollars to spend on their own treats eg. some berries or apples

- geocaching

- stargazing 

ollyoxenfree 01-07-2013 06:21 PM

I have to add one of our favourites - Put on a show! The kids loved to perform for us. They would do musical performances, act out plays, tell stories, and do spoken word performances. Some of them were quite elaborate with costumes (from the dress-up box) and sets (borrowed furniture, crafted and painted scenery on cardboard and that sort of thing). 


Along the same lines, create a little backyard circus with funny little acts and sideshow games like the beanbag toss and fishing in a wading pool for little treasures.  

anamara 01-08-2013 01:45 PM

We do repurposing projects around the house. At christmas we used flat Lego plates and an old coffee table to make a Lego play table. And my daughters and I use old sheets to make braided rag rugs and keep the scraps in a bin for braided balls and dollies. The kids love pretend chemistry with used jars and food colored water/color mixing games. Also when we shop at the farmers mkt/co-op on the weekends we do our big fruit and vegetable shopping and my kids and I sit at the table and do lite processing for the week...peeling corn, cleaning and destemming greens, making compost/turtle food out of carrot tops, peelings etc.

mamarhu 01-08-2013 08:45 PM

Indoor balloon volleyball.

Living room fort building (sheets, furniture, cushions, all that)

Rearranging the furniture

Christine08 01-08-2013 11:13 PM

My 4-year old son loves to make "books." We staple a few pieces of paper together and he draws pictures and letters. It keeps him creative and busy and is very low cost.

CookiePie 01-09-2013 05:31 AM

I have a budding chef!  She loves to cook and bake!  We do pretend cooking shows where we cook a meal all the while explaining every step to an imaginary camera. Dinner gets cooked, it is a game and the kids are much more likely to try new things if they made them!

RebeloveMa 01-09-2013 03:32 PM

Our dd is 14 m/o and our favorite free things to do:


- Go exploring. We take slow walks around the neighborhood or by the creek and try to observe every little thing. DD loves this. We often run into cats, squirrels, birds, and deer. We examine plants, trees, and rocks. We observe the seasonal peculiarities. We look for fairies and insects.


- Jam. We love to play music together. We use tin cans, large and small, for drums. (They sound really good.) We make shakers with small containers and rice or beans. And everything around the house has some sound. The most recent discovery we made was the sound of hitting the open end of a piece of pvc against the palm of your hand. It makes a water drop sound. Spoons for clacking. Singing. Etc.


- Have dance parties.


- Play or workout at the park. DD and I challenge our own fitness by playing hard on the park equipment.


- Make up involved stories about things in the house or outside. This will translate into many fun free things when DD is older, like writing down the stories, making pictures, books, etc.


- We also utilize the library and community events.


Also, if you can get a hold of the book Unbored (library, or make the investment ~ $15) you will have even more frugal fun!!


Yay! Fun is FREE!bouncy.gif

wombtogrow 01-10-2013 05:10 AM

my sons love tea parties too! great idea about invitations.

Mamma2Addison 01-12-2013 07:56 PM

subbing - this is an area that is a tough one for my kids

mrsmischief 01-13-2013 06:51 AM

I've found my six year old to enjoy: 


*geocaching and letter boxing

*bird watching & nature study (Getting involved with a more formal bird watch study such as Project Feeder Watch is fairly inexpensive. This hobby can be free with books from the library or books already in the home.)

*movie nights with library DVDs

*packing up the cooler for a full weekend day at the park

*checking the newspaper to locate free and low-cost activities in the city--we can find free classes at the nature park, parks & rec events, festivals, concerts in the park, and parades through the newspaper. 

*free admission days at museums


*writing scripts and making costumes with repurposed items for putting on plays & puppet shows with family and friends (my daughter's obsession of the moment)

*inviting friends over for low-cost science learning fun, including baking brownies in a DIY solar over, exploring prisms with large bubbles, and "goo day" making various recipes of slime, obleck, and the like

*fun with toys and other items you already have--plan a game night, LEGO build night, fuzzoodles crafting afternoon, etc

*board games and puzzles--Use what you have. For new games, trade with friends, co-sign at a homeschool store, and shop thrift stores and garage sales.

*simply live together and by this I mean encouraging my daughter to join me for cooking & baking, singing together while we fold laundry, exploring as we weed the garden plot, that sort of thing

*take a daily walk or hike--good for nature study and wellness purposes

*practice yoga together

*work on our family journal

*read, read, read together

*crafts and DIY projects--many free or low cost. Pinterest has proven to offer a plethora of interest in this realm.

*bike riding, scooter riding, pogo sticking, and generally playing outdoors

*making music together with proper instruments and homemade 

Melanie Mayo 01-14-2013 01:10 PM

Thanks everyone for the great ideas! We used many of them in this new article "Frugal Family Fun."

Basylica 01-15-2013 12:52 PM

My kids adore animals and I was traveling quite a lot and wasn't a good idea for us to have a pet (I kept killing betta)

zoos can be kinda pricey.


Often we'll go to the pet store and spend a few hours playing with the kitties and puppies and staring at the fish and lizards.


The kids love some of the local malls. one in particular has a cool water feature with ducks and turtles and these weird pyramid shaped things the kids all like to slide down and run up. They also have a kids store with huge slidey bead things, a lego store that has a big table of legos to play with, and a puzzlezoo store with several fun toys out to play with.

We could spend HOURS there if I could handle it. They also have the only mrs fields in texas I think.....(growing up in chicago fields cookies were on every corner like starbucks are now) and we usually splurge and buy a few as a treat at the end of the day :)

mamarhu 01-18-2013 08:28 AM

Did anyone mention memberships to local museums, the zoo, etc.? Initial investment was less than 2 times admission for my whole family, but a year of fun! Our interests have changed from the children's museum to art and history museums, but as teens, my kids still enjoy museums, and it is a great way to keep a family connection as they become independent. Also, my YoungSon has a season pass to the ski lift. Costs the equivalent of 4 lift tickets, and he goes nearly every weekend. Frugal frivolity!  Bowling alleys, amusement parks - many activities may offer annual passes for unlimited use.

Sunshyn74 01-26-2013 09:01 AM

Snow shoeing
Ice skating
Outdoor play

Fishing / crayfishing
Nature walks
Drive-In (once per summer) $12 per carload

Year round:
Swimming at the local gym (I received a membership for the year)
Walking the dog
Crafts (craft box is full of great supplies I buy on sale)
Movie night or movie marathon days
Board games
Bowling ($1 games here)
Roller skating (free admission with a can of food donation)
Theater (family movie) $5.50 admission here, with $1 popcorn and soda

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