Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Family Fun on a Budget

The whole of January is such a bleak month - thank heavens it is nearly over.  Not just because the dismal weather but also because it is a whole six weeks before payday.  This is a problem for a lot of people, ourselves included.  Especially when we have five children to entertain.  In the week I only have the youngest two at home for part of the day.  They are usually happy with craft activities, a bit of scooting to and from school which eats up the day, and maybe a bit of good old CBeebies as well as the usual toys of course.  At the weekend we are all at home and thats when things tend to get expensive.  None of our older children do out of school activities at the weekend (partly by our design and partly because they don't want to) so they all expect to be entertained by us!

So, how do you entertain a lot of people on a budget and cater to all their tastes?  Well, we try to, and here are some of the ways we do it.

1.  Keep it simple - have a film afternoon

One of the best things about this is that there is always a film somewhere that we can all enjoy.  We either rent from iTunes or currently via Blinkbox (We had some free vouchers for moving our phones over to Tesco last year) or use our Netflix subscription.  We then add some popcorn bought from the supermarket, close the curtains and dim the lights.  We actually prefer this to a trip to the Cinema, which would probably cost us at least £80, mainly because it is rather nice to be able to pause the film for toilet breaks, everyone gets a good seat and you can't drink a nice glass of wine at the cinema ;)

Total Cost:  £4.50 film rental (Netflix is £6 a month), £2 for popcorn

2.  Exploring the great outdoors

An obvious one I know.  For the past ten years we've been members of the National Trust which offered us several places locally that we could visit.  The trouble with being members for so long however is that we know the places inside out having been to each one several times already.  That, coupled with the eye-rolls from the pre-teen and the teen every time we suggested a trip out made us re-evaluate the £100 a year we were spending.  We found that we have some great places closer to home that are totally free, some within walking distance.  We also realised that we weren't actually using our Trust membership very effectively, only walking round the grounds of some sites and not visiting the properties.  For the cost of the car parking we can still do that though, just without outlaying money for the membership.  The younger children still like to get out and explore and our older two can always be persuaded to come along as long as there is scope for a picnic at the end!

Total Cost: Nothing, or around £10 if you take a picnic

3.  Go Bowling in your house

Games for the whole family

Ok, so it isn't strictly proper bowling but have you ever tried to go bowling in real life with loads of small children?  Its a hassle I can tell you now.  First you have to get the shoes on and then sort out the score board and then stop them from throwing themselves down the lane after the ball.  If you get to nearly the end there's a high chance that you will run out of time before everyone has had their last turn (speaking from bitter experience here).  Anyway, we find it far more civilised to dust of our Nintendo Wii* and use the bowling game on that, or any other competitive game if bowling isn't your thing.  You can make things more of an experience by having prizes at the end (sweets!) and maybe also do some snacky food like hotdogs too.

Total Cost: £2 for some treat sized sweets, £6 for the hotdogs

4.  Have a themed meal at home

A Mexican recipe that they will all love

Now, we used to love going out to a restaurant occasionally but more recently, and kind of like the bowling thing, it is a total pain to organise.  With seven of us when we tip up at a restaurant the servers look perplexed when we ask for a table that seats us all.  One trip which admittedly was a while ago now, resulted in us actually having a table but being told I wasn't allowed to wheel my double buggy up to it but had to fold it and squish it behind some sort of cutlery dispenser.  This wouldn't have usually bothered me but two other families came in afterwards, one had only four members but were allowed to wheel their double buggy up to the table and leave it up throughout their meal, the other had as many diners as us in their group but were served before us.  Our food arrived and dh's was cold and had to be sent back.  We paid more than £50 for that experience and I think that is such a phenomenal waste of money when for much less we can have so much more at home (and also not be treated like second class citizens because of our family size).  Our favourites include Tapas and Mexican food.  You can add to the ambience with some appropriate music - I think we used LastFM for some lovely spanish guitar music once!  Also I have been known to melt a candle into an old bottle to use as a table decoration - be careful around the kids if you try this though.  We have so much fun getting involved with choosing and preparing the food.  Also, if dh is cooking then the food will be guaranteed to be piping hot, with enough for seconds which gets the teen's approval too - perfect!

Total Cost:  Varies but we can feed everyone very well for about £20 tops

This weekend we are having a Mexican feast on Sunday, maybe a bowling tournament on Saturday too.  What do you do to keep your family entertained?  What ever you are doing this weekend, I hope you enjoy yourselves!

*other games consoles are available.

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