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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Ask the Readers: Food ideas for a road trip?

Cherilyn emailed and asked:

We are planning a 16+ hour road trip in December with three
adults, two kids, and two dogs – yikes! The decreasing gas prices are a
blessing but we would like to save even more by taking most of our own
food. We don't want to have to stop for every meal. Can you give me
some ideas for inexpensive ideas for eating on the road? Ideas beyond
bottled water, beef jerky, and muffins are appreciated since that is
all I can come up with. Thank you! -Cherilyn

I know many of you will probably be doing some traveling to visit family and friends over the next two months so I'd love to hear any and all ideas for road-tripping on the cheap–especially when it comes to food. What are some of your favorite frugal foods to pack and eat on the road? What ideas do you have for keeping food fresh and tasty while traveling? I'm anxious to hear!

Guest Post: Family Fun Night

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photo by Ella’s Dad

Guest Post by Katie from Cincinnati Cents

After a busy week of school, work, and extra-curricular activities, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine cramming another activity into an already-packed schedule. However, taking the time to purposefully plan a block of family time together is worth more than every quiet moment we could ever possess.

Picking one evening every week (or every other week, as your life may dictate at the time) as a “family fun night” allows families the ability to reconnect on a weekly basis, ensuring no one is lost in the shuffle of the daily routines of our lives. The night chosen is immaterial, as is the exact amount of time allotted to the event. It is crucial, however, that the activity chosen is enjoyable for all, and that every member of the family feels included. The focus should be on the family unit as a whole, and not on one particular individual.   

There are always a few more popular choices around our house for a family evening together. In the winter, and during inclement weather, our children love having a picnic in the living room. We spread blankets out over the entire floor (which not only creates a “picnic” atmosphere, but protects the carpet as well!), and enjoy our picnic dinner together. We often put on our family movies, recapturing the kids’ younger moments together. They laugh together at each others’ antics and marvel at how small they once were.

Cooking together is another fun choice for families. One of our favorites is making homemade pizza. The smell of warm yeast quickly gathers everyone around the kitchen counter, and eager hands rapidly knead the dough. Once the dough has risen, and is rolled out to the desired shape, children enjoy choosing their own toppings, and “decorating” their pizza. It is simple to make personal sized pizzas, allowing each child to become a master chef for the evening.

A family game night is an inclusive choice for families with children of varying ages. Older children can pair up with younger siblings for more challenging games, thus allowing co-sibling teams to be formed. On the flip side, younger children delight in playing their favorites with older family members. If every family member chooses one game, no one feels excluded. But, of course, who chooses first? Put numbers in a bowl and allow everyone to choose. This not only ensures a fair order, but also assists younger children in easy number recognition (as a homeschooling mom, I can’t resist those “teachable moments”!).

As odd as it sounds, we have also made family cleaning into a fun evening on more than one occasion. We have a master list of weekly chores that we highlight as we go along. When we choose this “divide and conquer” method, every child picks a few jobs out of each category. We then divvy up washcloths and cleaners (or spray bottles of water for our younger ones), put on some loud music that we all enjoy, and dive in. Afterwards, the kids tend to find a treat that has mysteriously appeared on the counter– usually ice cream!

The possibilities for a planned day or evening together are endless. The end result however, is priceless. Everyone goes away with such a feeling of connectedness–a sense of belonging that cannot be recreated outside this integral family unit. These moments are worth more than any number a price tag could bear.

Katie is a homeschooling mother of four. She blogs at Cincinnati Cents,
where she shares money-saving ideas, deals, and frugal activities to
enjoy as a family.

From Crystal: What are some of your family’s favorite ways to celebrate a night of fun together without spending a lot of money? I’d love to hear!

Gifts in a Jar: A fun and frugal gift

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One of our favorite gifts to give for Christmas or other occasions is baking mixes. It’s such a versatile gift–so long as the recipient has basic cooking/baking skills, they will be sure to enjoy it! I especially love the concept of baking mixes in a jar; the presentation of the ingredients in layers makes decoration of the jar almost optional.

Good deals on jars are pretty easy to come by. Keep your eyes peeled at garage sales and thrift stores throughout the year (maybe you could even snag some for free from FreeCycle!) and begin saving them to use for gifts. You can also re-use large mayonnaise jars or smaller jars (like pickle jars) for miniature mixes.

Near Thanksgiving and Christmas-time, most staple baking ingredients like flour, sugar, baking chips, etc. go on sale at almost every major grocery store. Stock up then and you can make yummy homemade gifts in a jar quite inexpensively!

Recipes for Gifts-in-a-Jar are plenteous on the web:

::Organized Home–recipes for brownies, cookies, bean soup, bath salts, and more. Includes pre-made tags you can print and cut-out to use. How easy is that?

::AllFreeCrafts–recipes for soups, hot cocoa, cake mix, and more.

::CraftBits–recipes for biscuits, mocha, cornbread, muffins, and even some recipes for gifts-in-a-mug!

::Nestle–recipes for cranberry bread, pumpkin muffins, and more. Includes printable gift tags, too. You’ll need to log into your Very Best Baking account to view these. (Thanks, Jaycie!)

And if none of those look appetizing to you, just do an internet search for "gifts in a jar" and you’ll come up with hundreds more recipes!

Free Night of Theater

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Have you gotten your free theater tickets yet? Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for not-for-profit American theatre, is sponsoring a free night of theater
in cities around the nation. Shows are available from October 16 through October 30, 2008.

Go here to see if your city is participating and if there are any tickets still available.

Thanks, Journey to Frugal!

Ask the Readers: Celebrating Christmas in a meaningful way?

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photo by krisdecurtis

Christmas is coming and I have a large family, some
of whom have a lot of "disposable" income and others who are really
squeaking by this year. I have spent several of the last Christmas
seasons in tears of sadness and frustration. Sometimes I feel like I
can’t get the people on my list a "good enough" gift and sometimes
there is not enough money to get a gift for everyone.

I’d really like
to do things differently this year and I’d like to actually make
Christmas about Jesus and not about shopping. So, how can I get
everyone in the spirit? How can we celebrate in a meaningful way? How
do I give gifts from the heart and not from the wallet, and what do
other families do to get through Christmas without crying? -Alisa

I am guessing Alisa is not alone in her struggles; likely many of you have experienced something similar. So, how have you dealt with it? What ideas or suggestions do you have for Alisa?