Category Archives: frugal family fun

Frugal Family Camping

Now that summer is finally here it means camping season for our family. Sleeping under a forest canopy or starlight sky is our way of connecting to nature and each other. Plus, it’s inexpensive.

In reality most of our plans began months ago. Here in Oregon most campgrounds are booked months in advance, and I typically set a reminder about nine months ahead to reserve our favorite sites. There are plenty of first-come first-served campgrounds, but I’m just not willing to pack up the family on the chance that we’ll get a site. Plus, it gives us something to look forward to…

While scheduling can be tough with busy lives, camping with other families is really the way to go. By joining forces you can share cooking/cleaning/kid watching duties and your kiddos have instant entertainment with friends.  But the real reason to camp with other families is the bond you’ll share, especially if it becomes a tradition. You simply get to know friends when you’re together for a few days rather than a few hours.

Perhaps you’re not a camper, and aren’t sure where to start. Practice pitching your tent in your own backyard as a test run, your kids will get a kick out of it and you’ll feel more confident when you hit the road to the great unknown.

I love backpacking, but we are truly car-bound campers with extra cargo  and kiddos. Yet, I still strive for simplicity and don’t believe you need to buy a ton of gear to go camping. Here are a few random tips to consider for your next camping trip:

  • Pack strategically – create camping bins to store kitchen stuff and gear/games. My Twin Sis just got me Modular Hauler as fantastic b-day gift, they seem really handy. 
  • Pack car strategically – pillows, toys, books by kids – fleeces/jackets in a bag – shoes under seats….when we road trip we have a “home” for everything, which saves you hassle.
  • Have special games and books for camping and create your own ones, like fircone basketball 🙂
  • Kids love special flashlights , especially the self-generated wind up ones
  • Use flagging to demarcate camping area  for younger kids – use “must be able to see you” rule
  • Tents bigger the better OR plan to use multiple as kids grow up
  • Make/prep food in advance – my favorite is to make cornbread and then bring an easy chili mix – keep it simple with these camping meal ideas
  • Give yourself a break if camping is too much with young kids – do it because it’s fun, not another “to-do” to make you feel guilty!

What are your favorite camping tips/tricks?
How do you save money while road-tripping? 

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Free Parks!

As the summer rec season is (finally!) beginning, I was excited to be tipped off about several free park days! The National Park Service, BLM and National Wildlife Refuges will have free admission during several summer weekends, starting June 5-6 ! The free days are thanks to Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.” 

Hubby is a self-proclaimed “parkie”, which means our family often along for the ride.  Before kiddos we visited over twenty national parks and monuments together. Before the age of three our BigGuy camped and hiked in Yosemite, Rainier, and North Cascade National Park.  His new favorite blog Your Parks Go Guide from Oregon State Parks which is also offering free admission this weekend.

While many benefits are intangible, getting outdoors with your family is good for your health and your wallet. Not all parks are includes, so make sure to check your park agency.

Here are some things we typically budget for at park trips:

  • Admission
  • Food
    • A picnic and trail snacks is cheapest
    • Consider logistics of what you can bring and/or buy along the way
    • After some hikes you may want to treat yourself
  • Gear
    • You don’t need expensive gear – just make sure you have sturdy shoes, first aide needs (sunscreen), ample water, hat/sunglasses
  • Gas – most park excursions do require a tank of fuel, so budget per mile

Are you planning to visit any “free” parks this summer?
What are your favorite parks?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Frugal Family Fun

In our household we’re always looking for frugal (and sustainable!) family fun, so I’ve had a few posts on the topic. But on the eve of a long holiday weekend with virtually no firm plans, here are some ideas I’ve been toying with:

  • Visit local kiddie amusement park with free petting zoo
  • Create a worm bin
  • Backyard play date
  • Plant seeds in the garden
  • Take a Portland Hill Walk
  • Help out at a new CSA farm around the corner
  • Relax, follow kids’ lead and just enjoy the moment

Personally, I think we adults often over-think things. The key is to keep things simple, take it outside and enjoy some time together.

I also sign up for a weekly email that includes inexpensive events around town. I wasn’t surprised to find another great blog on  Frugal Family Fun

What are your family’s favorite ways to have frugal fun?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Pop Culture

For better and worse, pop culture is part of American society. Culture unconsciously shapes what we value, and how we feel about the environment and each other. In part pop culture has created a demand for “bling” and a desire for materialism. Yes, I grew up when Madonna’s Material Girl was on the lips of every girl.

So, without getting too heavy on you, I want to share a fun little video of a Ben Lee song called I Love Pop Culture. The lyrics include references to global warming and consumption, and yet it is so upbeat that you can hardly help but smile. I couldn’t get a grin off my face the first time I heard it. I hope this makes your day. 🙂

Do you think pop culture can spur sustainability?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Baby Biking

I took a baby step toward reducing our carbon footprint while enjoying some family time by finally mounting a baby seat to my bike for the Sunday Parkways event. When Girly began waving her hands as the wind blew her curls, I instantly wished that I would have broke down and got a seat years ago…here’s my saga.

For whatever reason, I always felt like I needed to get some expensive trailer to hit the bike lane with a child. Then when we were thinking of number two, I suddenly “needed” a double bike trailer. Then when our BigGuy got truly bigger, I thought to myself that we could only manage with a tag-along bike. Then a sales guy almost had me sold on buying a xtracycle, which is terrific for cargo commuting, but no necessary for green recreation.

Yet, I wasn’t quite ready to lay down a ton of cash just for a cruise with the kiddos. I also kept assuming that somehow I’d come across the perfect kid-bike gear at a yard sale, or Craigslist or as a hand-me-down. Yet, nothing seemed to give.

So, I finally checked out how much a simple new baby bike seat would cost me, turns out they are $28! I have no knowledge about the story of how it was created. Yes, it is plastic and made in China, but I hope it will have a long happy life as a baby bike seat! But I finally decided that I couldn’t stay stuck in my effort for a sustainable life.

Do you have a good family bicycle option?
Do you get stuck trying to “sustainable” purchases?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.