Monday, October 24, 2016

Affordable Fall Fun on the Fly

Halloween is right around the corner, dear readers, and if you're anything like me, you're about ready for some serious candy-checking.

Oh, my, that wrapper looks a little messed up. I'd better eat that one.

Nope, I think that one fell on the ground. Give it to Mommy.

I don't like the look of that wrapper's font. Is that Helvetica? Hand it over.

Oh I see you have four of these. I'll take three so you can have one. 

I have no idea why your bag is half-empty this morning. Are you sneaking candy? I can't believe you're sneaking candy! As punishment I am taking five pieces out of this bag right now!

Muwahahaha oh yes, I am ready. I need some type of reward for making it through the majority of this autumn season without blowing $400 at a pumpkin patch, apple orchard, or haunted house. That's right. My kids didn't do any of that stuff this year.

Why? How? What kind of mother are you? Well.... I didn't plan this year. I am typically a big planner. A couple years ago I started a Harvest Fest thing in this house. I really wanted to make the most of the season so I created invites and filled an entire weekend with fun stuff to do and places to go and things to cook, buy, and create. Of course, once the weekend eventually came someone was sick or plans would fall through or the weather wouldn't cooperate and I would always ended up feeling disappointed. I blame adorable autumn bucket lists for my feelings of failure. I'm looking at you, Pinterest. 

This year I just didn't have the time, to be honest. I kinda got busy and let autumn take its course. We knocked out chores as they came up and I just did the best I could. And you want to know something interesting? I think this was one of our best fall seasons yet.

Affordable fall fun on the fly (or frugal fall fun on the fly if you really want to challenge yourself) is exactly that - easy, cheap ways to make the most of the season. All of the ideas listed below can be done alone, with friends, or with family - I did most of them with my kiddos. And they were all admission-free!

Farm Visits - My county's farm bureau puts together a yearly farm tour. A number of farms within relatively close distance to one another open their gates and let us walk around, meet the animals, and explore their barns. They had produce and jams and honey on sale, sold hot dogs and soda, and the best part? At every stop my kids and I got to meet the actual family that lived there and worked the farm. It was incredibly fun and so, so rewarding to meet our local farmers. Many of the farms were just like the big-name "orchards" that were charging an arm and a leg to step foot on the property - except these farms were cheaper, less crowded, and supplied our county with nourishment outside of agri-tourism. If your county doesn't host an event like this try googling some local farms or checking your farmers market page for contact numbers - most farmers really love having their customers come visit and see how things operate! These beauties pictured below weren't part of the tour - they belong to a friend I work with at our local co-op. Ask around and ye shall find cuties!

Autumn Drive - Each and every year me, my big girl, and my best friend go on the Autumn Drive. Similar to the county farm tour, the autumn drive in my area hosts crafters, antique sellers, and a ton of seasonal food trucks. This is definitely less about agriculture and more like a very festive garage sale. Truth be told, you don't even need an event like this to get into the autumn spirit. Just pile into the car and go for a drive. Pack some apple juice boxes and drive around looking at the pretty leaves. This year I worked on teaching my girls some of the tree names. We've got sugar maple and oak down!

Movies - There is nothing better than lighting candles, grabbing a blanket, and curling up to watch Halloween movies. I love, love, love watching movies with my kids and every year we watch Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, The Halloween Tree, and The Ghost and Mister Chicken (classic, check it out if you have no idea what I'm talking about). Once the kids go to sleep I scare the crap out of myself by watching scary movies alone in the dark. I live on the edge, people. Pick out a few Halloween movies you love and make a point to only watch them in October. It is such an easy way to create a fun tradition!

Books - I love books more than movies, if you can believe it. Just like with our Halloween movies, I collect my favorite Halloween books and only bring them out in October. The kids love The Ghost Eye Tree, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, and Guess Who's Just Moved in Next Door to Us? You know as I'm typing this out I'm realizing these were all books my mama read to me when I was little. Traditions don't need to cost a dime and can be as easy as flipping a few pages.

Punkin Carving and Seeds - This may sound like a no-brainer but I thought I'd throw it up here because often times I think I need to visit one of those giant pumpkin fields to get my pumpkins. Turns out the ones they sell in the grocery store come from only a few miles south of where I live and they are about ten times cheaper than the ones sold at the patches. When it comes to carving I am not picky, those suckers won't last more than a week anyway, so I have no problem picking up giant pumpkins for $4 a piece at the grocery store. The kids don't care, either. And the seeds taste just the same when baked with some seasoned salt and olive oil.

Fall Walk - Get outside and walk around. Getting out the door when it's starting to get chilly can be tough but I promise those fall colors are worth it and they won't stick around for long. We go for quick walks around my hood, nothing more than a mile, and soak in those last rays of warm sunshine while we still can. I love taking the girls on walks because I get to talk to them with few distractions, explore with them, and be outside. Simple and not at all boring.

Crafts - My mama is amazing and she sent my girls a package of Halloween crafts - and they weren't the hard projects that take forever and fall apart. These crafts were comprised of foam stickers and some ribbon - that's it. I was over the moon. The girls didn't fight, nothing has fallen apart, nobody got frustrated, and I got an adorable banner and door hanging out of it all.

Food - Next month I am kicking off a new series all about making food from scratch with your kiddos. I am very excited about the series because honestly, parents, kids can cook! It's not always easy, and a lot of the time it is actually more work to have them in there, but once they get the hang of it and develop their skills, kids can be incredibly useful helpers. So far this autumn we've baked punkin seeds, cream cheese punkin muffins, zucchini bread, biscuits, sweet rolls with icing, and we are about to make pumpkin pie in a couple weekends. I do most of the work but my kids like to stir, mix, and "check" on the things baking in the oven. Food is one of my favorite things in the entire world so of course it plays a huge role in making the seasons special for my family - plus from scratch is cheap and cooking is one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get!

Gardening - I don't think there's anything cooler than foregoing the orchards and patches because you have your own orchard and patch in your own backyard. Our apple trees are still babies but we grew a record number of sugar pie pumpkins this year. The smiles and giggles I heard coming from my girls when they realized we had pumpkins growing is something I will never forget. And what is more frugal than planting a little tiny seed in the ground? Our herb spiral was overflowing this year, too, and the big girl learned how to identify lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and chamomile. You're outside, you're learning, and you're eating - gardening is my favorite.

Arboretums and Botanic Gardens - I've noticed these places get a little less play in the fall than they likely deserve. What better place to take in the foliage than a tree-specific garden covered with...well... trees? We did not hit up the pumpkin-lighting fest at my local botanic garden this year (that was one of the things I considered but the day of, decided I'd rather watch Netflix. I regret nothing.) but I think I'm taking the kiddos next year. It looked incredible. Check around and see if you have any lesser-known parks in your area. Chances are if there's a park, there's a group of people making that park festive and fun for the fall season.

The best part about having fun on the fly? If you don't feel like doing anything, you don't. And if you do, you go out and do it. It was blessedly relaxing for me to keep this mind frame and the mentality of "whatever you want" took all the stress and pressure off my time with my girls. So go ahead and check out some of these ideas and relax your way into the holidays..........or don't, that's ok too :)

I'd love to hear about your fall activities in the comments down below! As always, thank you for reading and have a Happy Halloween :) Boo!


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