I started writing this post yesterday, but I honestly was quite exhausted, and have remained exhausted until today, so I apologize in the slower rate of posting the past few days...
The kids and Mike and I just came back from a very long day out. It was a really fun and enjoyable day, and frugal, as well as productive. Days like today remind me that you don't have to spend a lot of money to create really enjoyable memories, and that enjoyable memories can be made even while running errands.
There were two things that we officially had to do while in the city-
my husband had a bureaucratic errand to run, and I had a class to teach. But when the whole family goes off to the city, even if the original purpose is errands, we want to make it a memorable outing for everyone, filled with fun and not just tedium.
Firstly, while my husband sat around bureaucratic offices waiting for his turn, I took the kids across the street to play on an interactive exhibit- stationary bicycles that powered all sorts of different things, from speedometers to drums to fans to music boxes. They had fun playing there for a while, but then they got bored, so I took them with me to a nearby store, Family Dollar type. While at the store, I stocked up on some cheap goodies for the kids- bubbles with sand toys at the end, and a bucket of chalk. See, while I was teaching my class, Mike would be taking the kids to the nearby park and I thought those things- costing about 7 dollars total- would make the difference between a fun day at the park and an amazing day at the park.
And then to top it off, before I started my class I treated the family and took them to a coffee shop where everything costs $1.40 (I know, sounds like a crazy number, but with our local monetary denominations it is less random), which I'd heard started selling some gluten free goodies- and got everyone gluten free muffins (other than Lee, who opted for a vanilla milkshake), and then off they went to the park with Mike while I went off to teach my class.
My class wasn't something that I'd ever thought I'd be teaching. I talk on my blog a lot about shopping at the "farmer's market", but truth be told, that's a misnomer. Its just an open air market, with hundreds of stalls selling all sorts of different things, from produce to kitchen supplies to canned goods to fish to clothing, and it is a very confusing place. I've been shopping there for years, literally, and have barely scratched the surface of how to shop there most frugally- and what I do know I mostly learned from friends, and some I've learned via trial and error.
So many of my friends have tried to shop there and decided that it was pointless, since they weren't getting amazing deals there, and then they heard that I would shop there and get dirt cheap produce- often for 13-25 cents a pound. They didn't understand how, and I tried explaining to them via diagrams and explanations where I shop and how, but still, many didn't understand what I was saying. People asked me to show them in person where I shop so that they know where to get the deals.
So that is what I did.
I had about 9 or 10 people come join me at the market, and I shared with them the "secrets" of getting amazing deals. I explained to them about the different types of cheap produce, or "Grade B" produce that I usually get- some grade B because of their odd shapes, some grade A but mixed in with grade B that you just have to pick out, some grade B that needs to be used up a little faster than the freshest stuff at the supermarket, and some really grade C that needs to be used up immediately.
I showed the people in my class around the market, about where you can get grade B super cheap produce, what areas you need to arrive earlier in the day if you want to snag amazing deals, and where you get better deals if you wait until the evening. I introduced them to the shop keeper who has been likened to Seinfeld's "soup Nazi" character, with great prices, but you need to be careful when dealing with him.
I showed them where I buy my super cheap salmon heads, as well as where to find the cheapest nuts.
I took them to a health food store where I buy flax seeds super cheaply which I then use as a replacement for eggs in most of my recipes- even homemade mayo- which also helps with my egg sensitivity, but also ends up being much cheaper than eggs! That same store is where I buy my green buckwheat- not in bulk- for cheaper than I had been buying my green buckwheat in bulk- and I explained to them that I use green buckwheat to add crunch instead of nuts in many recipes, and that I use it to make homemade gluten free granola and bread mix and pancakes...
I showed them the ethnic store where I buy my jaggery, and explained how I use that to make jaggery syrup, a much cheaper honey alternative that is still refined sugar free.
One of the people in my class pointed out to everyone a store where you can buy banged up boxes of cereal for very cheap.
And then I took everyone to the scratch and dent store, officially selling cheap non food items, but always with a variety of banged up or close to expiration date food items for super cheap. This trip there in addition to wine and grape juice, I saw cheap cans of corn, peas, pineapple, and pasta and bread mix and bread sticks. I ended up buying 2 bottles of balsamic vinegar for $2 each, something that usually costs at least twice that or more locally. I also bought 2 big bottles of cranberry juice for $2.85, when they usually cost twice that.
Then I stopped at a store to buy some injera- $2 for each gigantic injera- and then headed off to the park to meet my kids.
They were having a blast there- playing with the bubbles and sand toys and chalk, climbing on the playground equipment, etc... The first thing my boys told me when I arrived was that they found a coin for $1.40!
The kids played and Mike and I chilled out, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere in the park, the breeze, etc... while the kids just played and played and played.
Another couple ended up sitting down next to us, and somehow we started talking. Even though we come from culturally very different places, we discovered, somehow, that we have a mutual interest- homebirthing- and ended up discussing that, and my homeschooling for a while.
A man set up shop near the playground with a cotton candy making machine, and after much discussion, my boys decided to get one thing of cotton candy, with their $1.40 that they found at the playground, to split between themselves.
We picnicked on our injera and apples.
Eventually, it was getting late, and we wanted to get home before it got too late, so we walked to the bus and went home. The kids said it was one of the best days they had in a long time, and they want to do that again.
And that is perfection.
Because the day happened simply because we needed to get errands done, and it ended up being a super awesome day.
Great times don't need to cost a lot of money.