• Mrs Morning Coffee

Cheap or free things to do out and about in Autumn and Winter.

I’ve heard so many friends say the same thing over the last couple of weeks - "I’m totally skint". It’s that time of year where we know Christmas is looming and the majority of people feel the purse strings being tugged at constantly.

We all have visions of what our ultimate things to do this coming season will be and I don’t know about you, but they always seem to come with a price tag and it's not always small! 'Budget friendly' isn’t always a phrase that comes to the forefront when thinking about things we can do to make special memories. Simple ideas can easily escalate and become more elaborate in the planning stage, and before we know it not only have we spent far too much but we’ve also stressed ourselves out too!

With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things that can be done without costing a lot of money at all - dare I say the word FREE?!

Torch walk

Maybe this one isn’t quite so exciting for adults, but the Coffee Beans love it! They’ve been asking since the September return to school when will they be able to go for a torch walk? This basically is a normal walk except they go in the dark and take their torches with them - it really is that simple! Obviously we have to wait until the nights get dark earlier otherwise they’d be going at some ridiculous time of night so it makes it an ideal winter activity. They wrap up warm and head out the door (usually with Mr Morning Coffee) and they're always so excited. It doesn’t even have to be a long walk, sometimes they don’t even make it off our road - and it's a pretty short road!

Watching fireworks from a hill

This was something that I remember from my childhood. Fireworks displays were always expensive and sometimes that expense wasn’t something that could be afforded (or wanted to be afforded) when the budget was tight. That didn’t seem to matter in our family all you needed was a little sense of adventure and for my Dad that meant putting us kids in the car and driving us to the top of a local hill and letting us watch the fireworks from across the whole town. It didn’t cost anything other than the petrol but I still remember the feeling of adventure and excitement I felt and even now when I drive up that same hill its always the memory that springs to mind.

We were also fortunate that we lived quite close to our local fire station, who always had a bonfire and fireworks display nearby and very often the bonfire was so tall that you could see it over the top of the houses. One year I was so determined that I wanted to see some fireworks I made a cup of hot chocolate, dragged the step stool from the kitchen outside the front door and sat on our path watching it all - sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house to make memories.

Have a film party

When I think about Christmas the first thing I always think is 'wouldn’t it be great to have a party'. The thing is that hosting a party isn’t always cheap, and being the host can mean that you don’t actually get to enjoy the party as much as if you were a guest.

Last year we came up with a solution. We decided to have a Christmas film party. We did this particular party with the children in mind but I think we could have done this as grown ups with no children allowed and it would have been just as successful. It's such a busy time of year that having a reason to just to stop and turn your brain off for 2 hours can be absolute bliss. We decided that Polar Express was our go to kids Christmas film so that’s what we showed. I served popcorn and pizza and everyone else was welcome to bring along anything that they like to eat whilst watching a movie.

That was basically it, there was nothing really elaborate, the kids enjoyed themselves and the grown-ups we were able to have a little chat too whilst the children relaxed watching the film.

Going to look at the local Christmas lights

This is something that we did as children and that we have always done with our children. I always know Christmas has arrived when I get to walk the Coffee Beans down to the nativity scene (which is always displayed in exactly the same place every year) in our town and look at all the figures. They all look like they've seen better days and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t changed since I was a child, so it's no wonder they look a little 'weathered' but then I also think that’s what makes it special. It's the same as getting your decorations out each year; they might not be bang on trend but they have sentimental value and memories attached!

Each year we pick a night to go and have a walk around our local town and look at all the lights. We go when the shops have closed and it's not so busy which means there's space for the Coffee Beans to stand starring up into the air mouths wide open looking at all the colours and patterns. I like to keep a little treat in my pocket - a fun size chocolate bar or a pack of Haribo to give to them half way round and it's this that I know makes it just that little bit extra special for them. I'm sure when they get older this will be something that they do with their their children or remember fondly from their childhood just like I do.

Visit a local garden centre to look at the decorations

This is something I like to do even as a grown up! I love looking at decorations - baubles especially, but when you take the the kids its even more exciting. Many garden centres sell decorations but over the past few years I've noticed that our 2 local ones now also have great displays of their Christmas things to entice you in. The Coffee Beans love to go and look at all the lights and trees and if we're very lucky theres huge animatronic or interactive displays too.

We usually take them in early November when all the Christmas stuff really starts on a big scale (after halloween) and although this may seem early to some people it means that we get to have a good look and start the magic of all the excitement that comes with it. We try and go when we know it won’t be busy (hence the early November) but that's just because that way they get to see everything and they’re not tripping over people as the shops just get so busy at Christmas time.

A winter walk, with goodies

I can't take credit for this one nor can I say I have as yet done it, but I read it somewhere on the internet (and I wish I knew where so that I could credit it but unfortunately it was months ago) and its just stuck in my mind.

The idea of this one being that you go out on a winter walk and take something nice and possibly warming to eat or drink with you. When I read it I do remember they said this was something they did every Christmas day afternoon. Whilst the grandparents napped after Christmas dinner the family would go out for a walk at a local beauty spot and take with them a tin of chocolates and a hot drink. They also said to try and encourage this to happen they packed the treats tin into the car a couple of days before along with anything else needed and had the flask ready to go, this way they weren’t trying to find things on Christmas Day and didn’t end up with the ‘Oh shall we not bother’ scenario which too many of us are far too guilty of!

In the Morning Coffee family the tin would probably be filled with Nannies mince pies and coconut tarts and the flask (to my disapproval) would probably have hot lemon squash in it, which is Mr Morning Coffee's favourite and is now enjoyed also by the Coffee Beans. I'm afraid for me only when I'm poorly do I partake in this 'hot lemon' drinking but to keep things easy I'd probably just go with it!

For me I'm not sure this would be a Christmas Day activity so if we were going at a different time we would probably want something to eat that was more substantial than a mince pie. Never fear, I have a cheap solution for this!

A couple of years ago, on a cold winters day, I pulled up at our local national trust venue and a few cars down were a family that we all gathered round the tailgate of some lovely looking Range Rover type car and they were grilling burgers on a little burner. They smelt delicious and you know there must have been so many people who walked past wrapped up in their hats and gloves thinking the same as me - they smell good, I wish I had one! The thing is we don't have a drop down tailgate on a a big posh car and with 2 very young children I'm not sure I'd want to attempt it. There is, however, a great alternative solution to this that I've seen my friend do on many different occasions.

When we meet up with friends we’re usually outside (no matter the weather!) and we usually have a picnic. Admittedly sometimes these picnics are of the more formal variety where we actually get to sit down and other times the picnic is eaten on the go as all the kids just devour a constant stream of food! My friend will sometimes produce a packet of finger rolls, some tomato ketchup and a flask for her families picnic and the first time I saw her do this I have to say I was quite jealous! Inside the flask were hot dog sausages, the type you get in a jar or a can. Before she leaves home she would cook them up as the instructions said and then would empty the contents of the saucepan into the flask and voila, a hot meal ready to go. When they were ready to eat she would just drain away the liquid, take the sausages out, put them into the buns, squirt of tomato ketchup and the whole family is sat eating a nice warm hotdog. This is such a quick meal that she's usually done this in the same time it's taken for the rest of us to get our kids to sit still on a blanket whilst trying to unwrap some food and simultaneously shouting at them to watch what they're doing and not knock their drink over! It's such a genius and simple idea and on a winter walk who doesn’t want some nice warm food to keep them going and bring a smile to their face?!

So there you have it, a few simple ideas about things you can do as a family this winter season. It's hard to say anything is completely free, for even using the car means paying for petrol, but at least they are cheap and cheerful and can be done on a very small budget.

If you have any other ideas please share them and add them in the comments section below.

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