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Good Fun For Hard Times

Updated on January 8, 2011

Ideas For Keeping the Family Smiling

There aren't too many families that aren't feeling the pinch of these hard economic times, and some are downright struggling.  Not only is the lack of money a stressful issue, but the emotional distress is difficult to deal with.

Whether a couple of two, or a family of six, there are ways to spend an evening not only saving money, but truly enjoying each other's company.  Sometimes, even a few hours of smiling can lower stress levels, as well as prove that there are ways of having fun that don't cost a dime.

You might even find that the closeness these evenings spent together harvest is more valuable than a night spent out in separate activities, and the tradition just might continue far beyond the hard times

Game Time

You may want to take an inventory of the games you already have tucked away in the back of cupboards. I have even come across a couple that we never actually opened and tried once.

It can be a bit of a challenge to get the kids to agree to sit down and give a board game a chance, but, if you set things up, complete with some snacks, that all make for a fun atmosphere, once everyone settles in, you'll be surprised at how the hours will fly by with laughter and conversation.

If you don't have any board games available, I have some great ideas for your own games that you may, or may not already recognize. Once you get the idea, you'll soon have everyone coming up with more ideas, and family fun night will be hopefully be more than one night a week!


No Cost Activities

Here are a few ideas to get your imagination going - you can even get the other members of the family thinking and getting involved by assigning each to plan the next family fun night. It is surprising what great ideas they'll come up with. You'll save on electricity for the day, and have special interaction with the family!

Camp Out Indoors:
Have the main room cleared back, so there is plenty of room for the entertainment, and for sleeping bags later.

  • Each member can pack their own camping items such as pj's, toy, pillow, etc . . .
  • Cook up some hotdogs, or popcorn, or see below for snack ideas
  • Off goes the electricity, or turn it way down and incorporate a space heater in place of a fire pit (no marshmallows here!)
  • Flashlight hide n seek is a favorite and with being indoors, you'll have oodles of places to hide
  • Pet pebbles / pet twigs - You can either plan ahead and collect rocks, twigs, markers, glue, scissors and yarn, or you can have family members collect some of the items as part of the fun. Create your own nature pets!
  • Dig out those instruments that have collected dust and have a good ole fashioned sing a long
  • Dice games such as Yahtzee are great fun as long as the light holds out
  • Ghost stories are always a fun way to wrap up the night


  • Board games can make for hours of entertainment. Everything from Clue to Monopoly to working jigsaw puzzles. Use what you have on hand, or seek out thrift stores for good buys
  • Make the evening project a group effort of making your own family board game. Have a large piece of construction paper, markers, pieces to move around the board can be found around the house (beans, hair clips, pennies, etc. . . ), index cards for cutting in quarters for questions or bonuses, and a story idea to get it started.

Home Flea Market:

  • Have everyone go through their "junk" and get it together for a family garage sale, or flea market.
  • Each person would be designated for each department such as shopping for items for a real garage sale, items to be donated to a charity, or items to be thrown out.
  • There is certain to be haggling and discussion - just make sure it is all in fun. You will spend hours having fun and clean out the clutter at the same time!
  • For the small ones to get even more excited, you can gather pennies to pay them for their goods.


Fun Food and Snacks

To really save on the evening, go through your cupboards and get creative with the ingredients you have on hand. Most likely, you have a hodge-podge on snack and cereals needing to be used up, so set out a buffet of treats.

A very economical way to make popcorn is the old fashioned way of buying the kernels and popping them in a skillet. Here's the easy method -

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup popcorn kernels
  • Put the oil in a large skillet, turn the heat to med-high, watching closely
  • Toss in a few kernels, and when they are sizzling good, carefully add the remaining kernels
  • Put the lid on, and start shaking the skillet back and forth, and all around. Keep this up for the 2-4 minutes it will take for all the kernels to pop
  • When the popping slows down, take the skillet off the heat so you don't burn it
  • Put the popcorn in a paper bag, and add salt and butter to taste. Try a variety of seasonings such as garlic salt, French onion soup mix, herbs, mac n cheese packet

Smores in the kitchen when there's no campfire:

  • Spread marshmallow from jar onto graham crackers
  • Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler - you want them smooth
  • Place a spoonful of the chocolate on top of the marshmallow, and spread it out
  • Keeps well in a covered container after cooled

Chickpea Snack:

  • Whisk together 2T. olive oil, 1T. grnd cumin, 1 t. garlic powder, pinch of sea salt, pinch of pepper and a  pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Toss with 1 - 15oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and spread on a cookie sheet
  • Roast about 45 min. at 350 degrees stirring occasionally until browned and crispy
  • These are great and very healthy - play with different seasonings


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