Fall is here, and though everyone’s back to school, there’s no reason that fun needs to come to an end. After all, you’ve still got weekends and evenings to spend together. And since fall weather is not too hot and not too cold, it’s actually a better time of year than summer for some family activities (No sweating or sunburn!)
If you splurged a bit on summer fun, you might be wanting to tighten up the ol’ budget now. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to enjoy the season of autumn without spending oodles of money.
Here are few to get your wheels turning.
1. Eat apple and pumpkin everything.
Of course you can eat these foods at other times of year, but fall seems like an especially appropriate time. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins are the usual suspects, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also stir pumpkin into oatmeal (add brown sugar, cinnamon, and other sweet spices such as nutmeg and ginger), add it to chili, make a pumpkin cream sauce to go on top of pasta, or make a pumpkin-chicken chowder.
2. Make applesauce.
In the fall, bushels or half bushels of apples are available from farm stands in most parts of the country (or you can make an outing of picking your own apples), so it’s a perfect time to cook some into applesauce.
Why bother with this?
Well, if you’ve never had homemade applesauce, you are seriously missing out. Once you’ve had a taste of the homemade stuff, you will wonder why you ever bothered to eat watery, flavorless applesauce from the store. Also, homemade applesauce is sufficiently sweet even without any added sugar, and it’s usually cheaper than even store-brand applesauce.
To make a simple batch of applesauce, peel and core apples (if you have an old-fashioned apple peeler, your kids can help you with this step), place them in a pot with about an inch of water, add a cinnamon stick or two, and simmer them for about 30-45 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Then simply mash them with a potato masher or run them through a food processor.
You can freeze any extra applesauce to enjoy later.
3. Eat outside.
Fall days are ideal for eating outside because of the mild temperatures. An added bonus: most of the pesky summer bugs will have disappeared.
Take a picnic to a park, eat out on your deck, or sit out on your front steps or porch to eat. For an unexpected treat, pack up a weekend breakfast meal (muffins and fruit are very portable) and eat it outdoors.
4. Make a fire.
A chilly fall evening practically begs for a fire. If you haven’t got a backyard fire pit, find a friend that does, or check the end-of-season sales right now to see if you can find one on clearance. September is a great time to score a deal on outdoor furniture and accessories, like fire pits.
Roast marshmallows, make s’mores, tell continuing stores (each person around the fire gets a turn adding to the story), tell jokes, and just enjoy each other’s company.
5. Enjoy hot beverages together.
After a summer of iced coffee, tea and lemonade, a steaming beverage is so appealing. Apple cider, which is usually only available in the fall, makes a special fall treat if you heat it up. It’s fun to add spices or orange slices, but it’s quite delicious simply heated up on its own.
Serve up mugs to your whole family and enjoy some time together around the table (or even better, outside!) while sipping your cider.
6. Plant some bulbs.
If you put them in the ground now, you’ll get to enjoy beautiful blooms come spring. Most kids love to plant things, and bulbs are so large, even the smallest of hands can pick them up and put them into a hole. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are all inexpensive choices and they’ll keep blooming spring after spring, which means the cost over the lifetime of the flower is very low.
7. Take a walk in the woods and collect beautiful leaves.
The gathering is half the fun for kids, but they’ll also enjoy making something with the leaves.
Try making placemats using leaves, waxed paper, and an iron. Or you could dip them in beeswax and make a beautiful garland.
If you’re patient enough, you can press and dry them and then write on them with a silver sharpie.
8. Make a leaf pile and jump in it!
If you live in a neighborhood with lots of deciduous trees, fall may be one of your least favorite times of year (Oh, the raking that needs to happen!)
But don’t forget the upside of all those leaves: they make great free fun for your family. Have the kids help you rake them into an enormous pile, and then take turns running and jumping into the leaves.
9. Buy pumpkins and carve them.
Pumpkins can be had for between $5 and $10 apiece if you shop carefully, and they’ll provide an evening of fun for the family. If you buy them early and your weather is cool but not freezing, you can leave them on your front stoop for decoration until you’re ready to carve.
When it’s time to carve, pick up a pumpkin carving kit (they’re only a few dollars and make the job so much easier!) pick out a design (check the internet for all sorts of ideas) and have at it.
Really, the most important thing about family fun is the togetherness, and sometimes the simplest, most inexpensive pleasures in life, like picnics or leaf-jumping are the best for promoting family relationships. So, grab your family and do something to celebrate the season together.