Monday, May 29, 2023

Frugal Fun - Picnics and Free Museums!

I don't know about you but we are really feeling the pinch at the grocery store. I remember pre-pandemic, a Costco employee said in passing that you could guess your total at the register by multiplying the number of items by $12, because that was the average for groceries. These days I feel like the average is more like $17, and forget doing any serious grocery shopping anywhere else.  And of course, that translates to higher restaurant prices as well, which sucks because we have always supported a lot of local restaurants.

I know lots of families are in the same boat right now, especially with student loan repayments looming, so I thought I would start sharing some of our frugal weekends. Maybe this helps you pay the bills, maybe it helps you save for a vacation!

First, I said I would pick up baguettes at Costco, but they didn't have any. What they had was two loaves of "country french bread" for $6, and they looked nearly identical to the bread Francis learned to make during the pandemic baking craze. Lilly called it monorail bread, and it stuck. His monorail bread is a recipe that he found online that is similar to any "french bakery bread" type recipe you can Google. The ingredients are simply yeast, flour, honey, and salt. (Sidenote: I have been reading The Frugal Gourmet and we also bought a dredger this year to cut back on the amount of flour wasted for "dusting".) It's a perfect snack with butter, or toasted for crostini!

Second, we try to buy most of our meat from our local CSA, but that $5 Costco rotisserie chicken is just too good to pass up. What we do when we get one is strip it down and turn it into chicken salad, and then use the carcass to make chicken stock in the Instant Pot. You can add veggies and herbs for more flavor, but our stock is often just turned into "pupsicles" for Stella, who loves to be outside in all weather. We put the stock in a pyrex bowl with a cup up carrot (her favorite, and a 5lb bag of big carrots is about $5 at Costco) and freeze them. When it's completely frozen you can just tip it right out of the bowl into the yard. Dirt cheap dog treats!

What do you get when you combine the homemade bread and rotisserie chicken salad? Picnic lunch! We were going to take it to the Forest Park Naturescape playground, but that is next to the Zoo and the traffic was, well, a zoo on a holiday weekend. (Turns out the African Arts Festival was also in that corner if the park.) Instead, we went to the Forest Park visitors center, which has an awesome, accessible playground and a small water fountain. It may be intended for drinking, but of course kids had their hands all over it. Go to the visitors center for a bottle filling station!

After lunch, playground, bubbles, and playing catch, we walked over to Missouri History Museum. Sometimes they have a paid exhibit here, but at the moment everything is free! We spent some time reading books and playing Mississippian games in the History Clubhouse, coloring on the walls in Coloring STL, and playing soccer games in Soccer City. There are even more exhibits we didn't get to, so we have more to entertain us on another weekend!

We'd love to hear some of the things you're doing to save money this summer! 

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