Five frugal things for the school holidays

Photo of wisteria above our front door, blocking the window due to neglect during the long summer holidays

Wisteria going wild during the summer holidays

The joys of the school holidays: six weeks stretching ahead to keep your children occupied without breaking the bank.

Sadly, chucking children outside with lashings of ginger beer, and instructions not to return before tea time and foiling minor crime, seem to be frowned on nowadays.

Here are five frugal things we’ve been up to so far this summer.

(And if anyone discovers a time machine, allowing me to blog simultaneously with child-wrangling, do let me know.)


Photo of loot from the Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge at our local library including a booklet, door sign, key ring and folding paper question and answer game, all completely free

Loot from the Summer Reading Challenge

Signing up for the library reading scheme

Libraries in general can be a frugal lifesaver – books, magazines, DVDs and internet access on tap, and often activities for younger offspring. The Summer Reading Challenge, when children are bribed to read six books with stickers and key rings, is another winner. This year’s theme is Animal Agents, and gives a reason to get out of the house, borrow books and let your children hold forth about their favourites to patient volunteers. Tech-savvy children can also sign up online to get book recommendations and enter competitions. Best of all, it’s completely free.


Photo of a couple of packed lunch bags that we take on family outings to cut costs

Lunch bags, veterans of many family outings

Preparing packed lunches

One major money-saver on any day out is taking your own packed lunch. We rarely seem to set foot outside the front door without some kind of sandwiches, or at least a bottle of water. Sure it can be a pain lugging it all around, but your bank balance will thank you. I use a couple of squishy zip up insulated packed lunch bags, which are super light. Think these ones are similar. For tips on what to take, check out my post on thrifty packed lunches.

Picture of some of the rope bridges at the free St Elizabeth Olympic Park Tumbling Bay adventure playground

Ropes ahoy, and all for free

Exploring free activities on offer

It’s always worth checking out free activities, before busting out for the likes of theme parks. We did a day trip to St Elizabeth Olympic Park, meeting up with friends at the Tumbling Bay adventure playground. I thought the kids might be a bit old for the sand and water part bang near the Timber Lodge cafe (handy loos), but no, they played for ages with the water pumps and lock gates. There’s also a brilliant part with rope bridges, tree houses and slides. Meeting up with other people definitely helped keep them entertained for longer.

Photo of train tickets using the bargain Greater Anglia £2 child return ticket offer

£2 a pop child train tickets – bargain

Taking advantage of cheap train tickets

Our trip to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was more affordable because Greater Anglia trains were running an offer with children’s off peak return tickets for just £2. The only slight hitch is that you have to pay at a ticket office, rather than booking online in advanc. However, I could still use my Network Railcard to get a third off my own ticket, so our day return train tickets from Manningtree to Stratford cost less than £20 for the three of us.

Photo of Button Bag owl house craft kit, bought cheaply from a charity shop to keep children entertained over the summer holidays

The Great British Sewing Bee awaits.

Nabbing games and craft stuff from charity shops

Before heading off on holiday, we always swing by the local charity shops searching for books, games and craft stuff. These help cope with inevitable rainy weather without spending a small fortune. This year my son (believe it or not) was particularly taken with this Button Bag craft kit, a bagain for £2 rather than the normal £8.99. He proudly made his own mini-owl. NB best attempted when you have the time and patient to help with cutting out, threading needles, rethreading needles and generally averting disaster.


Now over to you – any thrifty tips to survive the summer holidays? Frugal favourites to keep the kids entertained? Do share your ideas in the comments, as I’d love to hear!

I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five fabulously frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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  1. 11th August 2017 / 8:52 pm

    We spent a whole rainy morning trawling charity shops last week. Littlest only wanted to spend 20p on a set of Russian dolls!

    • 13th August 2017 / 9:24 am

      Iron self-restraint by your littlest one. Do like the sound of the Russian dolls. Charity shops can be so helpful on rainy days, both as entertainment in themselves and as providing a cheap source of books, toys, games and crafty stuff to buy.

  2. Jenny dee
    12th August 2017 / 1:26 pm

    We attended the Parkrun at our local national trust site , exercise and a stunning location even in the rain !

    • 13th August 2017 / 9:24 am

      What a lovely setting for a Park Run! I’ve only ever done a couple in parks or school grounds. Will check if there’s anything nearby.

    13th August 2017 / 5:24 pm

    I used to make up a book of ‘things to achieve’ – perhaps fifty or sixty things. It contained practical things like tidy your room or wash up; fun activites like go down a slide twenty times or swim three lengths or build a den; educational things like find and identify six leaves or read X book and answer these questions (required input from me beforehand); foodie things like try a piece of X (something they wouldn’t normally eat), make biscuits or eat a curly-wurly/mars bar etc. They loved ticking them off.

    On the last day of a school holiday we always played the blindfold tasting game – self explanatory with a promise from me that I wouldn’t give them anything they definitely disliked.
    Often we made dens in the garden and they’d eat lunch in there and think it was great. Eloise

    • Faith
      21st August 2017 / 8:46 am

      Amazing the power of dens. My daughter can now put up our small tent up herself, so uses that in the garden, but dens tend to spring up on our landings and in the telly room. Like the idea of lots of things to do. I’d been wondering about doing a lucky dip jar, although potentially with some colour coding so I could avoid for example picking outdoor activities when it’s pelting down with rain.

  4. 13th August 2017 / 7:48 pm

    Yep sewing definitely requires patience and much time!!! We were planning a day trip to Olympic park as well. The train journey alone is an adventure!!

    • Faith
      21st August 2017 / 8:43 am

      Have fun in the Olympic park, do recommend the Tumbling Bay playground even if it is a bit of a walk from the tube. We’re planning an exciting train journey this week, off to Norwich.

  5. Kate
    14th August 2017 / 1:17 am

    I’ve not commented before but am currently enjoying my first proper summer holiday with my daughter before she starts reception this year. A few thoughts to add… leading on from your thoughts around exploring free activities, I’d also add looking for free local events. A local arts company is running a free outdoor child friendly cinema event every Saturday evening through August. All we need to do is pack up a picnic and it keeps little ones entertained for a few hours!
    Also not sure it totally fits in the ‘frugal’ category but it did serve a dual purpose in taking my daughter to a pottery cafe. Every item she painted will be gifted to a relative or friend for birthdays or Christmas. Not only did it keep us entertained for a few hours but she enjoyed picking out and painting the items for each person and it saves me wracking my brain to think of gifts to buy. Win win!

    • Faith
      21st August 2017 / 8:42 am

      Thanks a lot for commenting Kate! Great idea about creating presents at the pottery cafe, and hope you have a lovely time at the outdoor cinema. Brilliant that it’s free, we’ve loved going to outdoor film showings in the past. Have a great summer holiday!

  6. 20th August 2017 / 8:49 pm

    It seems like we’ve done a lot of sporty stuff this summer. There is initial cost outlay, but then you can do the activity many times. Note that my kids are 10 & 11, so not all activities are likely the right fit for the younger crew:
    -Many trips to the local (free) BMX bike park. We bring our own water & snacks
    -Lots of pool parties at our house. I supply popsicles, and snacks/lunch as required. I stocked up the freezer a month or so again with lots of quick snacks & meals for the kiddos.
    -Skateboarding through the neighborhood with friends
    -Soccer in our yard, with our own goals
    -Tennis at the free courts in our neighborhood
    -Legos (they are still a thing!)
    -Chess matches
    -Board games
    -Cooking or baking together

    • Faith
      21st August 2017 / 8:40 am

      Oooh the pool parties sound great fun. We make do with a paddling pool and sprinkler – when the children aren’t complaining the water is too cold! Thanks for the great suggestions Hawaii Planner, I must check out our local tennis courts.

  7. fastcustomwritinghelp com
    11th February 2019 / 7:12 am

    Each student is waiting for the holidays because you can have fun and interesting to spend your time doing what they are interested.

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