Frugal and Healthy Life Hacks For The Beach

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Hey everyone, how are you doing?
This week our summer fun finally has started- we've been just hanging around the house until now, trying to avoid the extreme heat for most of the summer, but this week we are spending in a coastal city, a few minute's walk from the beach. We come here yearly, and I've posted about it before, but I don't think I've ever posted about how we "do the beach". I was actually thinking of titling this post "How the Penniless Family Does the Beach" but then I figured- some of these stuff are more "life hacks" so why not just title it that way?

Anyhow, as I've written before, we have no car, so when we go away on our vacation we go by public transportation, and have to carry everything with us in our bags on the bus transfers, etc... so we aren't unlimited in what we can take- it needs to be small enough and light enough to be able to fit into our bags...

But even so, we didn't just want to have to spend our precious vacation time shopping for what we needed there, and pay over-inflated prices because we bought what we could find and not what we found at a good price....
Therefore, right before we left on our vacation, I went shopping in my local town, at the cheap places that I know of, to be able to stock up on vacation supplies, even if it meant needing to carry it all there via public transportation, because it was worth being able to find what I wanted and not overpay.

The main things on my list were bathing suits, beach toys, and a mat for the beach to go under our towels so they wouldn't get all sandy.
I looked and looked and looked in quite a few stores to try to find something small, compact, and easily foldable that would be good for the beach, so that our towels and other things wouldn't get all sandy, but I only found what I was looking for in one place- but it didn't fold small at all, and was made out of woven straw or something, which meant that there were so many little pockets for sand to be trapped in. And it was expensive, for something that wouldn't even really be so terrific, and didn't really meet the criteria we were looking for.
So I had an epiphany- of a cheaper, "hacky" way to prevent our stuff from getting all sandy at the beach- but just to make sure I wasn't totally crazy in thinking it was a good idea, I called up Mike and asked him,"Mike, what if instead of using a beach mat, we just use something like a plastic tablecloth?" Mike didn't throw my idea out, didn't think it was totally bonkers- said we could try it out...
And since we already had a thick plastic tablecloth at home (more than one, actually; this was one of our old ones) we didn't even need to pay anything for it.

I must say it worked like a charm!

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It folds small, sand doesn't stick to it at all, and even if you drip water on it, it just rolls right off. And then when you finish with it, you can take it down to the water to rinse off any sand that might possibly be stuck on it.

We are total converts.
No more beach mats or blankets for us- plastic tablecloths all the way for us!

Mike agreed it was the best beach trick he's ever seen.

When in town, I also stopped at a store that sells everything for a quarter. Usually what they sell isn't good quality, but sometimes quality isn't needed. I bought a bunch of sand toys there- shovels and rakes, etc... For dirt cheap I managed to get a lot of sand toys that my kids have been enjoying playing with.

Anyhow, in the previous two pics you can see my little girls in their bathing suits. I bought them at a good quality but cheap store in my local town- they were each about 10 dollars. They aren't the "standard" bathing suits you usually get, but are rash guard types with attached shorts and short sleeve shirts.
The reason for this is is multifold. Number one actually is that my oldest, Lee, actually asked for this kind, and not shorts with a tee-shirt.
Second- I don't want my kids going to the beach exposing most of their bodies. I don't go to the beach with most of my body exposed either- I wear a more modest swim suit.
I am raising my kids with the concept of modesty, and I feel that especially as kids, there is no reason to sexualize them and dress them in styles of swim clothes that are copies of adult swim suits meant to emphasize their sexuality. So my kids may be some of the more covered up ones at the beach, but that is totally fine with me- it even has other benefits!

Speaking of other benefits- a long time ago I wrote a blog post about why I don't use sunscreen, either for me, or for my kids. And it's not because we live in a place that there isn't much sun, but rather, because sunscreen isn't healthy for you, and it is quite possible that it may increase the risk of skin cancer instead of decreasing it. Sunscreen doesn't just usually contain chemicals in it that are carcinogens, they also stop only certain UV rays- the ones that will make your skin get burnt, but not the ones that cause skin cancer, leading people to stay out in the sun for too long, thinking they're protected when they're not.
Then there's the aspect of vitamin D. If you wear sunscreen whenever you go out, you aren't getting enough access to UV rays to get vitamin D from the sun, and many many people are vitamin D deficient.
My method of stopping my kids and myself from getting burned in the sun is to not have them go outside too exposed- but have them go out often, from when the sun isn't so strong, and a little at a time when the sun is stronger. Gradually, they build up a tan that protects them from getting burned, giving them a healthy layer of protection so that they can spend more time in the sun without getting burned.

We've spent hours at the beach for the last 4 days, my kids wearing their modest swim suits, and hats much of the time, as did I... and no one has gotten even a drop sunburned. So, I'd say that was a success.

And the last "hack" isn't something that I made up on my own, but was something I've seen all over facebook- to prevent your cell phone and valuables from getting stolen, wrap them up in a diaper when at the beach- no one is going to suspect that your valuables are inside diapers... but hey- if would be thieves do decide to start pulling apart dirty diapers in search of valuables... well, then they'll just be caught red handed (or brown This has been working great for me.

Anyhow, I'll be posting more about my vacation and what we ate frugally and healthily while we were here, a little later, but for now I wanted to leave you with these frugal and healthy life hacks.

Do you have any hacks for the beach that you'd love to share, either cheap tips, smart tips, or health tips for having a more successful beach holiday?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Plastic tablecloth idea is brilliant! I think we will try this for our next beach trip. Thanks. :-)

  2. I agree with you, to some extent, on the bathing suit subject. My girls are 3 and 5. And while I don't have a problem with "regular" (one piece) bathing suits, I hate it when I see little girls wearing bikinis! My 5 year old asked for one the other day... No way!!

  3. enjoy your vacation! your little girls are so cute! great idea with the tablecloth!

  4. Not every skin type tans if you build up slowly. Very fair skinned people burn regardless.

    1. That is true. Even my fairest skinned kid (Anneliese) tans instead of burns, if its gradual. Red heads burn the most easily and don't tan, AFAIK.

    2. The only times my kids got burned was when we went out for hours into the sun for the first time that it was sunny after being indoors all winter. But hasnt happened since then, when we've been doing gradual sun exposure instead of intense all at once sun.

  5. We are modest too and my little one struggles with summer. She is 3. She can't understand why everyone is naked in her eyes. We haven't tried going to any public swimming areas only because she asks everyone why they are naked :). It's nice seeing another modest family.

  6. I agree! It's nice to see children being children and not being miniature adults. it really bothers me to see children out in public with their midriff showing. children need to be children as long as possible. You only get to be a child once and that innocence is precious.

  7. Just make sure you don't dispose of the wrong diaper! Otherwise it might be you burrowing through the heap! Fab idea though!

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