Frugal Fall Fun

Ahhhh. What is it about autumn that reinvigorates the soul so much? If it’s your favorite season, you get it, and you’re DEVOUT. Sure, lots of people like the newness of spring, and summer’s warmth is great, and winter can be downright magical, but if you’re a lover of fall? You’re a fall-ower of the season. (Yes, I went there.) You make lists of all the things you want to do or see or enjoy out of the season before the first flakes start to fly. (And for those of you in the warm-all-year regions of the world? I just don’t know how you do it!)

I’m a lucky girl. My husband and I are HUGE fans of fall, and our son has loved it ever since we tossed him in his first leaf pile. We’re lucky enough to live in a “four season” area, so today I’m sharing some of the ways that we like to make the most of the crisp, cool evenings and sweet, leaf-scented Saturday mornings as a family - particularly, without spending too much dough!

And, even if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you don’t have to select Halloween costumes two sizes too big (to accommodate puffy winter jackets), you can still grab some of these ideas for yourself!
frugal_fall_fun
Plan Meals Around the Season - We’re big farmers’ market fans. In our neck of the woods, great produce doesn’t really get going until well into the summertime. So, while summer brings us awesome berries and loads of zucchini, our family can't wait to get at the butternut squash and root vegetables of fall. There's just something about those cozy, comfort food meals, and it's finally not too sweltering to crank up the oven!
Because of this, I take the season as an opportunity to meal plan (which, normally, I fail miserably at!) based on what's in season. Especially with a newborn on the way in November, I'll be pulling out our slow cooker to throw together some of our family's favorites soups, stews, and chili. Oh, and of course there will be plenty of apple desserts and muffins, pumpkin goodies (especially cookies!), and quick breads. The sky's the limit with fall food!

Make Chores Fun - After a season of lounging (okay, and lawn mowing and garden tending), it's finally time to turn our attention to the pre-winter outdoor chores. This, of course, means pulling out the rakes a couple (or more) times before trading them in for shovels and snowblowers. This also means it's the perfect time to get kids involved, too! Although it's a great skill to learn, children don't even need an extra rake to get in on the fun, er, work. We're fine with having our three-year-old jump into the pile as many times as he wants, but lately any chore isn't really seen as a chore for him; it's a fun way to show how big and responsible he's gotten. He genuinely loves being given a "job" to do. So, this year I foresee him scooping up armfuls of leaves to add to our bucket or carry to the curb. Sure, he'll probably drop half of them along the way, but it's a great, fun teaching tool...and is sure to tire him out for nap time! *wink* And, of course, older kids can help with this, big-time! Enjoy the Outdoors While You Can - Going along with raking, there are TONS of fun outdoor activities families can do that don't have to cost a lot of money. Most areas have some sort of autumn festival, pumpkin patch, apple orchard, or other fall-themed events. Search your local papers and websites (or put out a Facebook post to friends) to find out where your nearest, funnest options are. Sometimes there are weekend events that you can attend with everything from hayrides to face painting (which may or may not be free), whereas other times a business will pull people in with free fun in hopes of people purchasing their goods. We have a tradition of going to a notoriously expensive cider mill to feed their VAST amount of ducks, sample their goods (for free, of course, hee hee), and maybe get one gallon of their cider. Or, since we like to pick out pumpkins and get some U-pick apples, anyway, we'll go to a spot that may also offer free hayrides or a corn maze to get some extra fun out of the experience. Remember that the best things in life are often free, and a walk around the neighborhood or a leaf-peeping adventure (either by car or on a nature trail) are wonderful ways to experience the season, too! Be sure to take plenty of stops along the way to let your little one use her senses to take in all she can; curiosity is one of the biggest, most wondrous parts of those early years.
Spice Up Your Home - One of my favorite things about a new season is making a few changes in and outside our home. Whether you have a tiny apartment or a sprawling mansion, just a few touches here and there will help set the mood for a cozy autumn. You don't have to go on a huge shopping spree to add some fall to your house. Look at what you currently own with a different eye. Pull extra blankets and pillows out of storage to switch up the color, textures, and coziness factor in your favorite areas. Grab some branches or leaves to fill a vase. Pile some autumn-toned books in the middle of your table. You can even change up some art by throwing some inexpensive patterned scrapbook paper into your picture frames. I also love to hit up the thrift store to see what I can repurpose around the house. A teacup can hold a small votive candle, for example. We've found a perfectly-sized chalkboard that now hangs in our living room; each season, I draw a new scene or positive saying to change the mood of the space. And the absolute best way to cozy your home for fall? An inviting scent. You can buy an inexpensive candle in an appealing fragrance, or try a DIY option: put some water, cinnamon, clove, and even sliced apples in a pot on the stove and simmer until your house is filled with the spicy aroma, or use some essential oils in a diffuser or DIY reed diffuser.

Treat Yo’self - A lot of autumnal fans equate the season with one thing: the availability of pumpkin spice flavored EVERYTHING. So, go ahead and revel in it; treat yo’self, as they say on Parks and Recreation. Or, if you’re not into the artificially-flavored stuff, you can still indulge with one of the many recipes you can find online: DIY pumpkin spice coffee creamer to add to your favorite home-brewed coffee, DIY natural pumpkin spice latte for those who own an espresso machine/frother, or even these "pumpkin spice everything" non-coffee recipes. 

And for those of us who aren't addicted to this trend, this is the time of year to enjoy whatever treats your family enjoys most. My husband is the popcorn maker in our family (organic air-popped deliciousness, my friends), but this year I may steal some of his unbuttered magic to make our own caramel corn (I'm thinking this healthy natural caramel corn recipe may do the trick). Add to that our family favorites of all-natural homemade hot chocolate and "wassail" (hot spiced apple cider), and call us officially fall-ified!
So, what's your favorite part of autumn? Are you a fan of the season, or are you already mourning your flip flops and beach attire (or looking forward to pulling out your ugly Christmas sweater)?  
 
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