My kids are picky. Even my typically non- picky eaters are picky in their own right. I’ve been dodging complaints all week about certain snacks not being in the pantry or about what I chose to make for dinner, even though, in my opinion, we’ve been pretty well-stocked. I don’t think it matters how much we actually have… my children still think, “there’s nothing here to eat!” (Enter eye roll.)
With that in mind, I decided to start a new tradition at our house, called “Sunday Surprise”. We’ll make a meal out of whatever randomness we’ve got in our pantry or fridge for our Sunday dinner. No special trips to the grocery store to fulfill a recipe, no Chinese food runs, and no resorting to frozen pizza. It’s our new family challenge, similar to the ones I mentioned in step 3 of New Year, New FRUGAL You(9 Easy Ways to Save Money in 2020).
One of my favorite aspects of frugal living is making the most of what we already have and really using up what’s in our house, especially the food. As I mentioned before, we’re relatively well-stocked this week, especially with vegetables, after hosting friends last weekend for gumbo night and a family slumber party. But the items I used tonight are likely in your fridge and pantry too.
With canned corn, potatoes, carrots, celery, a simple meat, milk, and a few common pantry items, you can totally pull off this potato and corn chowder! I had several gold potatoes that were about to go bad and some celery stalks that were on the verge of bending like rubber. I also had some leftover ham slices, which by the way, I recommend adding to your regular grocery list if they’re not a part of the rotation already. (Ham slices are a quick plan B option when dinner plans don’t work out.)
I love to make soups in the winter, and I found a yummy recipe on Pinterest. I just tweaked it a bit by adding about 1/2 cup of water and additional milk to get the texture I wanted. Plus, I also added some of my favorite seasonings and about 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese because, well, cheese makes everything better. https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/leftover-ham-recipes/
The chowder turned out to be delicious, and I had enough to bring to a friend for her family’s dinner tonight as well. The first Sunday Surprise actually worked out, aside from the fact that my picky kids still turned their noses up at it. Ah well, such is parenting. Luckily, I keep plenty of marginally unhealthy kid faves in the house as well.
Unrelated to the soup, I also realized today that we were out of coffee creamer, and I definitely did not want to go to the store just to replace that, knowing that I’d end up buying several other items once I stepped inside. So, I used an empty jar we had previously saved and mixed up half and half, a tablespoon (or maybe a tad bit more) of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I gave it a good shake and ended up with creamy perfection without having to run to the store.
I would absolutely love to hear how you make the most of what you’ve got in your fridge or pantry, especially if it’s become a great way for you to save money. I am by no means a chef, so there’s no reinventing the wheel in this house. Please share away!
“Kids… sit still please. Look at mommy. Smile. Don’t throw that pumpkin! Do you want ice cream? Sit on that big, round white one. Say ‘Halloweeeeen’! Look at mommy. I’m right here. SIT DOWN!
Ah, forget it! I wonder if they have wine on this farm.”
If you have at least one mini-human living in your home or did at one time, you know exactly where I was in the heat of the afternoon last October. It’s a rite of passage for both parents and children: the Fall pumpkin patch photos. And as difficult as it can be to get those perfect pics of children in their orange and hunter-green frocks sitting among pumpkins and gourds of various shapes and sizes, I look forward to those pumpkin patch moments all year long. There’s no shame in my game: we visit as many of them as we can throughout the month of October and keep trying for that flawless photo. Those fall festivals and prize-worthy pumpkins are the quintessential representations of the best season of the year!
In my family, we FALL so hard. We anticipate the opening of the Spirit Halloween store as much as a skier anticipates the first snowfall. We covet the most creative dessert at a festival cake walk like a mama covets a hot cup of coffee after an all-nighter with a sick baby. We dream up Halloween costumes months in advance, start decorating with scarecrows and owls in late September, and fill our calendar with as many fall festivities as we can find. My kids come home daily to pumpkin-scented candles burning in the kitchen and mums strategically placed on the porches and tabletops. My husband gawks at our full agenda and questions how we can squeeze in all in, while this Mama is dancing around to “Thriller” and packing picnic dinners, ready to soak in everything my beloved season has to offer.
The endless options of awesome autumn activities, coupled with the natural beauty of the changing seasons, are the reasons why “fall” becomes a verb in our household and has led me to create an annual fall bucket list… I challenge you to FALL so hard with us.
5. Michael’s MakeBreak Classes: Halloween t-shirts, jack-o-lanterns, Christmas ornaments, holiday trees, etc… you just buy the main item, and the store will supply all the decorations as well as the instruction. https://classes.michaels.com/classes
6. Friday Night Lights: Check out our local highschool football game and possibly a homecoming parade. It’s a full night of entertainment for the whole family for less than $10/ticket.
7. Barton Hills Farm – Bastrop: corn maze, duck races, games, pumpkin patch, slides, scenic photos, farm animals, playground, live music, and more ($16/person, $12 in advance online) https://www.bartonhillfarms.com/pricing
9. Haunted House and Festival at Pioneer Town – Wimberley: This evening outdoor haunting is featuring ghouls, ghosts, and other scary creatures not often found in your normal pioneer village and is geared toward adults and older children, but on one Saturday in October, families are welcomed to a spooky fall festival featuring haunts, a creepy petting zoo, crafts for kids, pop-up vendors, live music, food, and beverages. (Daytime cost: $5 for 6+, free for under 5; Evening pass: $10 for 13+, not recommended for young children) https://wimberley.org/event/hauntedhouse-and-fall-festival-at-pioneer-town/
10. Fall Colors , Market Days, and Holidays in Gruene: “Watch as Cowboy Kringle rides into town on horseback and lights Gruene for the Holidays. We’ll be celebrating with live musical performances with festival food and wine available for purchase. Afterwards, get some holiday shopping done and cozy up to a fireplace for dinner at the Gristmill.” Go a little early for photos with Cowboy Kringle, a free show at Gruene Hall, and a stroll through town or along the river. http://gruenetexas.com/holidays.php
12. Haunted Train Rides & Zoo Boo – Austin Zoo: “Boo at the Zoo is a fun-filled evening for ghosts and goblins of any age. Come dressed in your Halloween finest (no adult masks, please) and enjoy our Zoo-wide event including the Zoo bedecked in Halloween spookiness, our nocturnal animals, an eerie train ride and unlimited passes through our mansion.” Check out the website for pricing and train ride times: https://austinzoo.org/boo-at-the-zoo/
13. Pumpkin Patch at DSYSA Sports Park (Oct 19, 9 am – 12 pm): This FREE event will entertain your kids with fall-themed and soccer-themed games, trick-or-treating, photo opps, and game-watching. Leave a donation for a pumpkin, lemonade, and/or baked goods to support the local soccer program and the youth that love to play.
14. Sweet Berry Farm – Marble Falls: This farm/pumpkin patch is FREE to enter, but you buy tickets for activities, such as flower picking, face painting, scarecrow-building, horseback-riding, and hay rides. Save a bit of money by bringing in your own picnic. https://www.sweetberryfarm.com/index.html