Frugal Fall Family Fun

By Ed and Robin 

Fall is here and at Frugal Family Times we want to celebrate the new stuff fall can bring to our days.  

Fall is bonkers for busy in our world.  Back to school, back to work, back to coaching, back to not being able to drink wine at 2 in the afternoon (Ed).  It feels like it takes almost a month for us to get our legs under us again and when we do, we realize we kinda dig the autumn.  Warm days for enjoying, cool evenings for sleeping and an urgency to time; enjoy it while it is here because soon you will be scraping ice off your windshield.

Our list criteria: 
  • Free or nearly free, 
  • Fun for a broad range of ages (parents and grandparents included), and 
  • Simple enough to do without tonnes of planning.  
Some of the ideas bend/break the rules, but it is our list so whatcha gonna do about it? Here goes: 

1. Backyard Fires

Fall usually means it is cool enough to enjoy backyard fire pits again (check your local fire regulations first) – simple camp meals like hot dogs (made into spiders) and marshmallows (made into smores) can be a lot of fun even when you are not at camp.   Unlike summer, it's actually cold and dark enough now to really enjoy this.  And now, since we fixed our rusty outdoor fireplace (how-to here), we'll be doing this so much more!

2.  "Park Crawls"

Remember the Pub Crawls from your pre-parenting days?  This is our G-rated version (i.e. minus the booze and the pubs - ok - we admit, this is a stretch on that theme.)  

Our Park Crawls are this: as a family we ride our bikes to a whole bunch of neighbourhood parks, play a few minutes at each one and then head to the next.  We try and see how many we get to, or if we can discover a new one.  We then talk about our favourites and why.  We ask the kids, "If you made your ultimate park, which features would it have?".  

(We're also going to keep working on our Giver Park Quest.  That's been superfun for us!)


3.  “Making Potions 

Did you do this as a kid?  Robin did, but it wasn't potions, it was a "Perfume Company" or "Birdseed Factory".  Basically, it's the same end-product: crushed up organic matter from the yard.  

We make potions by collecting dead flowers and leaves and mashing them up with water.  We have a thrift store mortar and pestle to add to the Hogwarts-y feel.  Then we create the uses: What does the potion do?  What funny name does it have?  What spell do you have to say to make it work?  

4. Camping

Tenting is another activity that doesn't have to be limited to summer.  (Maybe it should be?)  Get the warm sleeping bags and PJs out and extend your summer.  Campfires are a great addition to this one.  The beauty is, if you do it in the backyard, you can go back inside if it's less fun than expected.

5. "Buried Treasure"

Find buried treasure in the sandbox.  Just bury some old forgotten toys or other bibs'n bobs and see if the kids can find it all.  (We built a lid for our sandbox this year, so cat poop is no longer an unwelcome surprise.)

6.  Leaves.  

Old standbys still hold up after all these years: 
  • Leaf rubbings with tracing paper and crayons
  • Jumping in leaf piles
  • Preserving leaves between wax paper and the pages of your biggest book (there's a purpose for those old textbooks you are still holding onto!) 
  • Of course, follow these up with hot chocolate.  

7. Preserving Food

Make juice or 'can'.  If you have access to a fruit tree in your yard or from a farmers market, making you own fruit creations can be fun.   

We have a grapevine and it's become a tradition for the kids to pick and crush the grapes to make their own concord grape juice.  We've done this with some neighbourhood kids and heard, I didn't know you could MAKE grape juice!"

We've also put the kids to work helping us with making salsa (you can find the recipe here).  We have a hand cranked type of food processor that they find amusing (for awhile anyways).    

8.  Hikes

We've been missing going on hikes in the woods from our pre-kids days.  Our kids are just now learning to enjoy them and we're often poking around in the woods on the weekends.  

The key seems to be finding the right trail (not too long and with a payoff like caves at the end), bringing snacks and water bottles.  We'd screwed up our past attempts at family hikes by forgetting any (or all) of those keys.    

9.  Get your Glow On

Glow bracelets are always fun.  (Now that it gets dark earlier, enjoying the night no longer cuts into your kid-free-after-bedtime-fun.)  Try playing hide and seek in the dusk, wearing glow bracelets adds an extra element.>

We need more ideas!  What would you add to the list?


  1. Great bathroom!
    Just found your site--enjoyed the frugal things with kids a lot.
    However--where ARE those appropriate hikes?

    AND--about leaves----How about some placemats for Thanksgiving? Two sheets of waxed paper with the leaves ironed between. they can actually last for a few years if stored flat.
    Some we found to be a little boring one year as we waited too long and all the leaves were brown.
    Solution: get out those bits of broken crayons and using a potato peeler shave some colors in [around] the leaves b4 ironing. Helps to have the extra wax to hold it all together as well.
    Yes, of course they will need assistance.
    Just about the only reason I find to use the iron.
    OK- now I must figure out how to send this......trying 'open URL? What ever that is. Can never find anything on my google account except by mistake. Nothing there for Yahoo-----
    Hope you get this cuz the placemat thing is really neat.
    OK--I see 'anonymous'--trying that and hoping I will hear about those hiking trails!
    Sposing w/anon--You will not be able to get back to me?
    Guess i did not learn the important stuff at the computer class-------
    Take good care---

    1. We had great luck finding hikes by Googling our city's name and the word "trail". Most have communities have a trail club and give ratings/descriptions of the trails.

      We've got a whole mess of crayons waiting to be turned into a craft - thanks for the wax paper reminder - I did that one as a kid and I still remember thinking it was bee-u-ti-ful.

      Thanks for your comment and ideas!

  2. Back 'in the day' we did these kinds of things---didn't think anyone these days was so creative and having fun working together on projects.
    Good for you both---I miss it!
    [Same anon as the wax paper placemats-]-just a p.s.

    1. There's a lot to be said for living in ways that we used to. I think our grandparents got so much right and we like to live by their examples. :)

  3. Another frugal and fun activity is Letter boxing. This involves walking and exploring, designing a stamp, discovering clues to hidden stamps others have left behind and then finding and collecting these stamp images in your notebook. It is a good excuse to go outside, and to have a plan for the exploring. Check out http://www.letterboxing.org. Hopefully I will write a blog about it soon, as well.


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