10 Fun Ideas For Family Entertainment—For Pretty Much Free!

Cheap family entertainment

The kids say…

“I want to go to the movie!  Bowling! Go get ice cream!  I want to go swimming!”

Mom and dad think…

“I wish I had a million dollars to do all these things!”

But, the truth is, most of us don’t.

The budget line of ‘entertainment’ can sometimes become soaked into a necessity.  Doing fun things together is something that should be a necessity, but doesn’t seem as high on the list as say food or a warm house.

Instead of focusing on the fun things to do that stress out mom and dad because of the cost, here are 10 ideas for cheap family entertainment!

Utilize The Local Parks

Discover the different parks in your area.  1.2 billion people play videos games, reports VentureBeat.  Shake things up and go to the park!  Don’t go to the same park; choose a different park each time.  If you have older children who won’t enjoy playing on the toys, come up with ideas to do as a family.

  1. Play kickball or another sport
  2. Fly a kite. Kites can be purchased at the dollar store.  You can have competitions to see who can get theirs up fastest, highest or keep it up the longest.
  3. Throw a Frisbee or find a park that offers Frisbee golf. This can be a great way to get exercise and include the family pets if you would like.
  4. Play tag or hide and seek on the toys.

Rent Movies From Your Library

A ticket to a movie theater is now around $8 per person.  That doesn’t include the popcorn and treats.  ABC News reports that a tub of popcorn cost a theater around $0.92 to make.  They charge you around $8.  That is a 700 percent mark up!

Instead of going to the theater to watch a movie, rent a movie from the local library.  Most libraries allow you to check out movies for free.  If there is a charge to rent, it is usually around $1 for one week.

Plus, you won’t have to sit in the theater seats.  ABC News also tested the seats for cleanliness.  There isn’t a regulation for how often the seats have to be cleaned.  Samples taken from a seat in New York showed bacteria usually found in human feces, soil, cattle and yeast.

Avoid the mark up and the bacteria and enjoy a movie at home!

Hike In The Mountains

Get to know the different trails around your home and explore them.  Find hikes that are suitable for your family, depending on age and physical abilities.  Research has shown that hiking not only helps you physically, but helps those struggling with depression and hopelessness.  Pack a lunch or snack, enjoy the outdoors and make it an adventure.

Explore Different Businesses In Your Neighborhood

Look into whether different businesses allow for guided tours.  Include other families in your neighborhood and discover how the grocery store functions or the post office.  Be creative and experience a different side of the businesses you regularly visit.

Have A Scavenger Hunt Around Town

Divide your family into teams and make a scavenger hunt that takes your family around town.  You could drive around town, or simply run around your neighborhood.  For example, get a straw from the local gas station, ask a neighbor for a paper clip, or take a picture with a dog, etc.

The tasks don’t have to be hard, or cost anything.  Be creative and make sure it works for your family.  Meet up at the end and share the pictures, or different experiences the teams had.

Make Homemade Ice Cream Or Other Treats

Spend the night learning making homemade ice cream or other delicious treats.  Not only will you get to enjoy the treats, but you will be teaching your family how to cook.

Take Advantage Of The Seasons

Depending on where you live, the adventures can change based on the season.

  1. Summer- get out into nature, camp on your lawn, play in the sprinklers, have a BBQ with friends.
  2. Fall – build leaf houses, jump in the leaves, carve pumpkins, visit a haunted house or pumpkin patch.
  3. Winter- have a snowman building contest or snowball fight. Color the snow with food coloring, and then enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate.
  4. Spring – Make planting flowers or a garden or cleaning up the yard a family activity. The best predictor of success of young adults is if they participated in work around the home.

Do Something Physically Active

According to the CDC children should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity at least 3 times a week.  Ride bikes as a family or play different games in the yard.  Train as a family and participate in a race.  Look into when family night is at local recreation centers or swimming pool.  This could allow your family to enjoy the different activities for less of the cost.

Investigate The Local Artistic Performances Or Shows

Don’t forget about the art programs offered in the community.  Walk through an art show; enjoy concerts in the park, or even movies in the park.  See what festivals or events are part of your community and take the opportunity to visit them.

Make Dinner A Game

Set a specific amount you cannot spend above and see what your family comes up with.  Have it be a competition if you have older children to see who or which team can come up with the best meal on only $5.

Another idea would be to have an Iron Chef competition.  Have a secret ingredient and see what your family can come up with.  Simple ideas become a fun way to eat dinner without spending a large amount of money at a restaurant.

Be Creative

When it comes to family fun nights, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  The traditional ideas can be fun, every once in a while, but memories will be made in the spontaneous adventures as well.

6 Habits To Make Cooking At Home On A Budget Easy And Delicious

Cheap recipes. Cooking on a budget.

Have you ever driven down the road and smelled the fries from the fast food restaurants nearby?  If you are hungry, those smells can be the best form of advertising for a restaurant.

There are over 236,000 fast food restaurants in America.  Chances are, there is one near you.

How do you avoid those delicious smells and decide to drive home, and put effort into cooking your own meal?

Here are 6 simple habits to help you avoid the restaurant and prepare your own meals. Find our cheap recipes below.

Mash Out Your Meals For At Least One Week

Make a list of all the different meals your family enjoys and that you enjoy cooking.  Use that list to choose your meals for one week, two weeks, or even a month.  The USDA has created a grocery game plan worksheet to help you more effectively plan your meals for a full week.

When planning your meals, choose courses that use similar ingredients so you don’t end up throwing away extra ingredients that went bad before you were able to use them.

Sift The Local Ads For Deals On Items You Will Use

Do your shopping for the week after looking at the local advertisements.  All of the ads are available online, along with different websites that help you find the best deals on food.  For example, SundaySaver offers a large selection of ads in one website.  Stay within your food budget by planning your meals around the advertisements and take advantage of the sale items, especially fresh produce.

Don’t Flake Out On Case Lot Sales

Case lot sales are always a great way to buy in bulk things you use on a regular basis.  Research shows that consumers spend 54 percent more than planned on “quick trips” to the grocery store.  Buy what you can at case lot sales to help you avoid going to the grocery store more than once a week.

Knead Leftovers Into Your Weekly Meal Plans

In planning your meals, plan a day to leftover food.  According to the National Resources Defense Council, American’s throw away 165 billion dollars in uneaten foods and snacks.  That is essentially $529 per person each year. By eating leftover food for lunch the next day or for another meal later in the week, you are saving money.  Plus, leftover night makes for a very easy meal once a week!

Garnish Your Diet With Healthy Snacks

When it comes to snacking, choose snacks that will keep you full.  The Mayo Clinic reports that eating a handful of nuts including almonds, cashews, walnuts or hazelnuts have been shown to reduce cholesterol, help you better manage weight and other benefits.  Plus, they are easy to store and take on the go.

Fruits and vegetables are also great to snack on.  The CDC offers a tool to help you know exactly how many fruits and vegetables you should be eating based on your age, gender and physical activity.  They are low in calories, provide essential nutrients, help fight against cancer and disease, keep you feeling full, and don’t cost a lot, especially if bought on sale.

According to USA Today, about half of American’s drink a soda daily and spent $2.8 billion on Halloween candy.

Save your money and your waist line by choosing snacks that are healthy.  Buy them in advance and on sale so you aren’t tempted to waste your money on last minute junk food.  When you have stayed full through the day on good snacks, you are less likely to splurge on fast food, or impulse buys at the grocery store.

Find The Cure To Last Minute Decisions

Planning your meals ahead of time will help keep you away from the last minute trips to restaurants.  Choose to cook meals that your family enjoys, but don’t be afraid to try new ideas based on the ingredients your family enjoys.

The USDA has created a SNAP-ED recipe finder.  Through this website you can search recipes based on a number of different options, including course, number of servings, amount of sodium and nutrition.  This website will help you find new recipes to feed your family healthy and delicious meals for not a lot of money.

Cheap Recipes that are Easy

To get you started on your journey to delicious, inexpensive, healthy meals here are a few recipes.

 Hamburger Helper Soup

½  pound ground beef, cooked and drained
½ cup chopped onion
1 package lasagna dinner Hamburger Helper mix
5 cups of water
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of corn
2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
1 small zucchini (optional)

Combine everything except Parmesan cheese, Hamburger Helper noodles and zucchini.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for another 10 minutes, until noodles are soft.

Baked Chicken with Vegetables

4 potatoes (sliced)
6 carrot (sliced)
1 onion (large, quartered)
1 chicken (raw, – cut into pieces, skin removed)
½ cup water
1 teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place potatoes, carrots and onions in a large roasting pan.  Put chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.  Mix water, thyme and pepper.  Pour over chicken and vegetables.  Spoon juices over chicken once or twice during cooking.  Bake at 400 degrees for one hour or more, until browned and tender. (Source)

Your Dream Vacation in 5 Simple Steps

Couple  petting an African Lion on their Dream Vacation
VICTORIA FALLS ZIMBABWE OCT 13: People walking with lions on oct 13 2014 in Victoria falls Zimbabwe. People can take part in, all in support of the larger conservation efforts to save the African Lion (meunierd / Shutterstock.com).

Maui, Tahiti, Disneyland, New York. Dreaming of visiting these places someday, hopefully?  Stop dreaming and start making it a reality.

NPR reported people tend to find more happiness in doing things, rather than just getting things.  Instead of spending money on that new outfit or new video game, do something fun that takes you away from your day-to-day reality.

Following these five simple steps will get you off your couch and onto a plane.

Dream Up the Perfect Getaway

 You can’t have a dream vacation without first dreaming about it.  Consider all options73 million Americans have been on a cruise.  If that’s your dream, great! If you get sea sick, choose another vacation.

Is Disneyland your dream?  Do you dream of small lines and fewer people?  There are times when that dream can come true.

Avoid major holidays like spring break, Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Presidents Day.  Instead, plan to go on a weekday in March or May, or when kids are back in school in September.

Be Okay With Your Vacation Being In The Future

Instantly stream videos, instantly message your friends, instantly, instantly, instantly.  Get that idea out of your head.

To make your dream come true, be patientUSA Today said a family vacation costs around $4,500.  Most American’s aren’t going to instantly have that amount of money to use on a vacation.

Find a good time for a vacation, a few years in the future, if needs be.  Allow yourself time to save the amount of money necessary to actually enjoy your vacation, guilt free!

Watch For Different Deals That Will Make Your Vacation Less Expensive

By planning in the future, you can watch for deals. Be flexible in the dates you choose for your vacation and the times you choose to travel.

For example, some airlines offer cheaper tickets if you fly Monday through Thursday.

Watch different sites that offer daily deals or getaways through Groupon and take advantage of the discounts.

Put Off Simple Spending To Keep The Dream Alive

Keep your vacation on your mind and alive in your budget.  Look for ways to save money in the simple things you do each day to save extra money.  Take a look at your budget and consider these examples of simple ways to save.

  1.  Make your coffee at home. Put the money you would have spent on coffee into your vacation account.
  2. Find inexpensive entertainment. Go for a hike, play at a park, or rent a movie from your local library instead of going to the movies.
  3. Cook! Make homemade meals instead of eating out.  Daily Health Post suggests not eating out for two weeks and setting aside the money you would have spent at the restaurant.
  4. Save your tax refund. InvestorPlace says putting your refund into a checking account is a bad idea.  Before you know it, the money is gone and you aren’t sure what you spent it on.  Instead of piddling your refund away on meaningless things, save it for your vacation.

Once you have found simple ways to save, open a specific savings account to put this extra money into.  Being aware of the simple ways you spend or even waste money will help you save all you can for your dream vacation.

Account For Experiencing All The Vacation Has To Offer

Snacks, souvenirs, museums, theme park pictures, excursions, unique restaurants. Don’t forget about other expenses that ALWAYS come up while you are on vacation.

When planning for your vacation, put aside extra money you can use while on vacation.  You don’t want to ruin an amazing experience because you didn’t account for the extras costs.

Plan now to spend extra money on the memories of your dream vacation.  This will keep the memories sweet, not sour!

Enjoy Your Dream Vacation

Once you have scrimped and saved and sacrificed for your vacation, enjoy it!  Having the money saved to spend on your vacation will allow for a fun filled trip for all.

You won’t spend the whole vacation worrying about how you are going to pay for this or that.  Your dream vacation will be perfect if you use our simple steps to prepare now.