Frugal Family Friendly Christmas Activities

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By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

Rushing from one store to the next frantically trying to buy all your Christmas gifts while realizing that you still have to plan a dinner party for next week and figure out how you are going to find time to get the kids all dressed for Christmas pictures tonight. Does this sound like you during the Christmas season? This time of year can be so hectic that we miss out on important things like enjoying quiet time with our families and remembering what Christmas is really all about in the first place.

20 Frugal Family Friendly Christmas Activities

Over the past year, I have tried to be more intentional about spending time with my husband. It can be easy to go from day to day without intentionally spending time together, so I’ve come up with some different seasonal lists of things we can do together.

Last Christmas, I made activity cards of things to do. We were going through a rough season financially, but I did not want that to stop us from enjoying this time of the year. So  I made sure most of them did not cost anything but would still give us a way to enjoy the Christmas season together.

Frugal Christmas Activities for the Family

To help you be more intentional with making time for what is most important this season, I came up with some frugal family friendly activities that you can do. Christmas is a time to have fun with your kids or to feel like a kid again if you don’t have kids of your own. However, I don’t want you to think of this as a list of things you have to do rather some ideas of things you can do. Don’t make this about adding more stuff to your ever-growing to do list. It should be more about creating traditions with your family for Christmas.

20 Activity Ideas

snow man

1. Create a fun tradition of decorating your home for Christmas. Growing up, my family always did this the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was the first official day to bring out all the Christmas decorations and music. You could even make hot chocolate or drink some eggnog while you are decorating. Whatever you do, make sure that it a fun and memorable time.

2. Go somewhere to look at Christmas lights. If there’s a nearby neighborhood that is known for having lots of good lights, take a drive after dark to see it. We have a park that decorates every year so I like to go down there at least once to see the lights. There’s also a zoo not too far away that decorates for Christmas too.

3. Go to a tree lighting ceremony. This could be a fun event for young kids. Look on your local cities website for a list of events to see if there’s a tree lighting. Many cities also have other special events going on along with the tree lighting as well.

4. Go see a Christmas parade or watch one on TV. Parades are a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit. It has always been a tradition in my family to watch the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving day.

5. Watch a family friendly Christmas movie. I love bringing out the Christmas movies! Some of my favorites are; The Polar Express, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The Santa Clause and A Charlie Brown Christmas. decorating the tree

6. Turn off all the lights in the house except the Christmas lights. I do this often while the house is decorated for Christmas. It gives the living room a peaceful glow. It is especially fun to do this while watching a Christmas movie.

7. Take fun pictures outside. This is especially fun if you can get pictures in the snow.  But even if you don’t have snow, chances are there’s a place somewhere that’s decorated for Christmas where you can get some nice pictures.

8. Have a game night. Games nights are fun to have any time of the year, but it’s a good way to spend time with friends and family during the holidays too. We often made time on holidays to play games as a family and I want to keep making this a tradition.

9. Organize a game night with prizes. This is a little different that just playing games. Each person brings a set number of separately wrapped gifts worth a dollar. It can be anywhere from one to five items.

You can even make this white elephant style where everyone finds some sort of random item around their house that they no longer want. Play a game like bingo where there are specific winners. When someone wins, they get to pick a gift. Just make sure that the gifts get spread around evenly so that everyone gets something.

10. Play outside in the snow. You could go sledding, make snow forts, build a snowman and make snow angels. Playing in the snow can still be a fun activity for grown ups too. So get outside and feel like a kid again!

11. Find a free Christmas concert or program to attend. Lots of churches have great programs for Christmas. My church does a special even each year with music and drama. My husband and I are in it this year since we joined the orchestra. Go on local churches websites to see if they have something like this. Your local city website’s list of events is another place to find a list of these type of programs. Last year, my husband and I discovered some new events this way.

12. Bake lots of cookies then package them up to give away to friends and family. One of my favorite Christmas activities as a kid was decorating sugar cookies.

13. Make your own Christmas cards. You can design your own with a photo editing program or just have the kids draw, paint, use stamps or whatever else you can think of. Another idea is to use old cards to make new ones. I have lots of cards from earlier years just sitting in a box. So one year I got some scrapbook supplies together and cut up some of these old cards to use for making new cards.

14. Make ornaments. There are lots of tutorials around the internet for different kinds of ornaments. One thing I remember doing as a kid, was gluing sequins on pine cones so they looked like decorated Christmas trees. It’s a simple craft, but looks cute.

hot chocolate

15. Create a hot chocolate or coffee bar. Set up a table with a variety of add-ins like some marshmallows, whipped topping, peppermint sticks, flavored syrups, cinnamon and sprinkles.

For hot chocolate, find a recipe to make it in a slow cooker and have a ladle for people to be able to scoop it into mugs.

If you want to do coffee for the adults, make a pot of coffee and keep it warm in an insulated carafe. it might also be a good idea to have some cream for the coffee. For some coffee ideas, check out this post of Joyful Thrifty Home called how to make coffeehouse quality drinks at home. 

16. Read the Christmas story from the bible on Christmas morning. We always did this growing up. I’m sure there were times when I would have rather just opened presents, but I’m glad that my mom made sure we knew the reason for the season. I hope to make this a tradition when I have kids someday.

Unwrapping the Gift

17. Create or use some sort of Advent calendar. This is a fun way to countdown to Christmas that usually starts on December first. There are many ways to do this using online printables or craft ideas. There’s even a lot of cute things you can buy for this purpose.

Last year, I made a calendar by printing circles with numbers one through 25 on them. Then I put a different verse that had something to do with Jesus and the Christmas story on the back. Each day, I took one down and  my husband and I read the verse on the back together.

This year, I put together an Advent e-book called Unwrapping the Gift with two other blogging friends; Crystal from Wisdom Seeking Mommy and Jane from Devoted Sonriser. It has 25 devotionals about gifts we are given through Jesus. There’s also a set of printables included that you can use to make your own advent calendar. It is free for a limited time for email subscribers of Joyful Thrifty Home or either of the other two contributors. Click here to get your FREE copy now.

18. Find a way to give to someone in need. Christmas is a great time of year to teach kids about thankfulness and giving, but it doesn’t have to be just to teach kids a lesson. Giving has a way of touching our hearts as well. Some ideas might be to pick out a name from a local Angel Tree and shop for gifts for that child, put together a box for Operation Christmas Child or volunteer at a local food bank to help pass out food.

19. Read a Christmas themed book together. You can pick a simple story book like The Night Before Christmas, or a longer book that you read aloud one or two chapters at a time.

wreaths

20. Make a Christmas wreath with supplies from your local craft store. This is a great project  to do even if you think you are craft challenged. All you need is a wreath and a few decorations to add to it. It can be as simple as you want. Stores like Hobby Lobby often put their Christmas supplies on sale for up to 50% off. So find out when a sale is going on and go pick up a few things to decorate your wreath.

Printable Activity Cards

As I mentioned above, I created a set of cards with different activities on each one. I have included some printables and instructions so that you can make your own. Click the image below to go to the page where you can download and print your own set of Christmas Activity Cards. Follow the steps below for instructions on how to use them.

Free Printable Christmas Activity Cards

1. Print your activity cards. Depending on how many activities you want to include, you may need to print multiple sheets of activity cards.

2. Print your envelope labels.

3. Cut out your cards and labels.

4. Glue or tape your labels to two empty envelopes.

5. Write out a different activity for each card and place in the activities to do envelope.

6. Put somewhere easy to find or hang on the wall. When you want to do a new activity pick a card. When you finish, put it in the activities done envelope.

I hope you are now inspired to try something new this Christmas season! Pick some of the twenty ideas above or think of some of your own. Whatever you choose to do, make it a way to have a fun and meaningful Christmas season this year.

 What are some other ideas you have for family friendly Christmas activities?

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the Christmas season?

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Get canning!

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By Rachel, Contributing Writer

Alright gals…whether you are an avid canner, have never canned before, or just need a little encouragement to get back into this amazing homemaking art, this post is for you!

I am slightly biased…I love canning.  It is a wonderful way to make the most of produce when it is in season and put it up for enjoying later in the year…when local produce may not be available and/or you’d have to pay a lot more for lovely, organic fruits and vegetables which helps you save money.

get into canning words

It also is a great way to use up all of your garden’s produce should you have a bumper crop of, say, green beans.  Not that I’ve ever been inundated with them before…  Canned goods make wonderful gifts (who doesn’t like a jar of homemade jam?!?) and they encourage you to eat whole/real foods throughout the year.

That said…how about some encouragement to get back in the swing of this resurging art or help light the fire to get you started?

5 Steps to Help You Get [Back] Into Canning

Find someone to can with

Canning is way more fun if you do it in community.  Yes, I just canned 20+ pounds of raspberries (jam, syrup, preserves, sauce, etc) on my own and loved every minute of it but it’s definitely more fun when you have someone to share it with.  My husband kept me company – and kept our 11 month old distracted – during part of the time but for the most part, I did this round of canning by myself during baby girl’s naps over a few days.  Check out this post on canning peaches for an example of canning with friends…

Gather up “new” mason jars

Mason jars are all the rage on Pinterest and in crafty gals’ blogs which is all well and good but they’re really in their element when used for their original purpose.  Have a little fun checking out local garage sales and thrift stores for some new jars.  You’ll probably find cute/short/square-ish ones, tall/skinny/quilted ones, or, if you’re really lucky, some old blue ones.  They actually revived the blue jar for the Perfect Mason Jar’s 100th anniversary so right now you can buy a 6 pack of pint size blue mason jars for around $10.00.  My hubby picked up a pack as my Mother’s Day present. :)  Anyways, even a few new jars will be a fun motivator to get going on a few preservation projects.

Put it on the calendar

Yes, canning takes a little time.  But not too much!  Regardless, if you’re reading this blog, you have lots of things to do to take care of your husband, home, family, job, etc.  You’re busy gals!  So put it in your phone/on your calendar/in your planner.  You just need an hour to tackle a small project.  Like homemade raspberry syrup.  You’ll be glad you set the time aside.

Choose some great produce to preserve

This is up to you!  I would choose something fruity, like raspberries.  I just finished making chocolate raspberry sauce, raspberry syrup, raspberry wine jelly, raspberry jam, and raspberry preserves.  My husband, though he does like raspberries, is a huge fan of dilly beans.  And remember that bumper crop of green beans?  They’re comin’ in again…which means I’ll be making dilly beans even though I can’t stand them.  But my hubby loves ‘em so that’s my next project!

Anyways, the point is that you need to choose something you’ll love to open in a few months.  Whether it’s something to preserve the goodness of the present (it’s raspberry season here in the Pacific Northwest!) or something that hits your tongue just right (oh dilly beans…), choose something you can get excited about!

Put yourself in the story

Mason jars have been around for a long time.  The side of the box of the 100 year commemorative blue jars speaks to the hard work that goes into the products in a canning jar as well as speaks to the “spirit of building, craftsmanship, and innovation of past generations.”

I reflected on what I consider Mason Jar Values as

an act of thankfulness for the harvest at hand, an act of diligence to make use of the time and talents bestowed upon me to take care of my family, an act of living out heritage by looking to the past as a means of thriving in the future, and an act of trusting that hard work now will lead to a reward later.”

They’re not just a kitchen preservation tool…they are much, much more than that.  Whenever you take the time and put in the effort to can something, you insert yourself into a great and meaningful story.

So get canning, gals!  If you want/need further encouragement, please please PLEASE contact me.  I will so very happily email you back!  My husband will be even happier because then I won’t keep gushing to him about my latest canning exploits…

Delightful Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcake Bites ~ Recipe & Tutorial

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If you have been living under a rock for the past few years then you may not have had the pleasure to taste these wonderful Cupcake Bites or the more popular version, the Cake Pop.

I prefer the look and feel of the Cupcake Bites as opposed to the Cake Pops, but essentially they are the same thing.

If you have not tried to make these for yourself yet, then make it a priority. Many people think it’s hard to make these and that they need one of those fancy shmanshy Cake Pops makers.

Which by all means you can get if you want to speed up the process. BUT the inside turns into a round ball of cooked cake instead of the super moist and delicious cooked cake mixed with frosting which makes these truly of another world!

I end up having to make new batches of these for every holiday and occasion. Visit Bakerella who of course made these so popular. She has many fabulous recipes and a step by step tutorial on how to make these.

My two favorite kinds of Cupcake Bites are the Red Velvet Cream Cheese Bites which are perfect for Valentine’s Day and Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites which I love making for Thanksgiving and any time during the Fall. The following pictures are of the chocolate peanut butter bites.

 

Valentine's Day CupCake Bites
These Cupcake bites are the perfect Valentine’s Day present.
They are also a fun treat to make for Easter ~
Easter Cupcake Bites
Easter Cupcake Bites
4th of July Cupcake Bites

4th of July CupCake Bites

{My personal favorite} Thanksgiving/Fall CupCake Bites

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake Bites

*Re-posted from Feb. 7, 2012.

Fun Gift Idea ~ Personalized Tea Box

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February is upon us which means many celebrations in our household. Mine and my husband’s dating anniversary is the 1st of February. Valentine’s day is of course sandwiched in here and we also have many family and friends birthdays throughout the month.

Homemade gifts become very important this time of year. They save money, provide fun for kids (and us crafty ladies), and help us to show our loved ones that we really care.

I recently decorated a tea box  for my husband for our anniversary. He loves taking his favorite tea with him to the office so I made him a cute box for him to hide stash away in his desk.

This is a fun and simple way to show our loved ones for Valentine’s Day or any day that we care about them!

And it’s easy! Simply start with your favorite tea. Our’s is currently Good Earth Sweet and Spicy.

Good Earth Sweet and Spicy

Then take scrapbooking paper and glue it on. For Valentine’s Day I took some cute red and pink paper with “I Love You” for My hubby. And for my friend I just made her her very own Happy Birthday Tea Box.

Happy Birthday Personalized Tea Box

This would also be cute personalized with a name or anniversary date. The possibilities of creativity with these are endless.

Personalized Tea Box
Decorated-Tea-Bag
*Re-posted from Feb. 6, 2012.

Last Minute Gardening Mother’s Day Presents

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Did Mother’s Day sneak up on you this year? I didn’t see it coming, in fact I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and it was May already!

So if you are like me and you are playing a little catch up this  week looking for a last minute Mother’s Day present then head to Home Depot or your local nursery and make a fun gardening present for the mother in your life.

You should be able to get this done tomorrow or Saturday just in time for Mother’s Day!

10 Great Gardening Mother’s Day Presents

 

1) Tiered Herb Garden

What a fun idea for someone who doesn’t have a lot of space. This would fit perfectly on a patio or by the backdoor. And it looks great too!

2) Porcelain Planters

This is such a cute idea, I’m picturing that this would look fantastic in my mother-in-laws kitchen! Plus they are within easy reach for cooking. Flowers would look great in these too.

These ones are sold on Etsy but I bet you could find something similar at Home Depot or your local craft store and make your own.

3) Herb Garden with Adorable Signs 

I think this herb garden with adorable little signs would be perfect for any present! I’m thinking as a house warming present for a new bride would be perfect :)

 

4) Stackable Garden Planter

What a neat idea to plant herbs or small flowers. This would look super cute out on a patio table as a centerpiece.

5) AeroGarden Seed Kit

These are so neat! I love that you can use them indoors and they don’t take a lot of space. I may need to get a few of these.

6) Stone Garden Markers

What a cute touch to an indoor herb container or outdoor garden. These would be the perfect gift for Mom.

7) Coffee Cup Herbs

These little herb plants are adorable! You could put an herb or flower in each one and give one to every mother you know!

8) Vintage Box Planters

Here is a great tutorial on how to make these adorable vintage box planters. I want these for my garden!

9) Tea Can Planters

Perfect for the tea lover in your family. These would look great in a vintage window sill. Beautiful!

10) Apartment Gardening Free eBook

This last week I released a FREE eBook Apartment Gardening: A Practical Guide to Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces. This could be a perfect and FREE Mother’s Day present.