Just back from a nice weeklong vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where we shared a house with 10 friends. Everything went smoothly, with every night’s dinner made by a different pair each night. The weather wasn’t fantastic and Miss Frugalista kept waking up earlier and earlier in the morning (4:30 am was pretty painful), but overall, it was a blast.
I did learn a neat trick from my friend Nikki: baby wipes can be used to remove makeup! How cool is that? I won’t be buying makeup remover wipes ($4.49 for a pack of 30, Target’s Up&Up brand) again anytime soon. I use unscented, Huggies Natural Care wipes on our daughter, and they’re gentle enough for my face, too. Best tip ever!
We’re less than 6 weeks away from our first-ever vacation with Miss Frugalista, and it may be a crazy idea: We’ve decided to rent a house with 10 other friends and take a road trip from New Jersey down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for a full week. Most likely, the bulk of the ride will feature a 18-month-old crying because she wants to get out of her carseat, but we’ll be stopping a few times on the way for bathroom breaks/diaper changes/meals, and, most importantly, to stretch our legs. It will be fun trying to pump our own gas. Maybe I should have someone explain how to do it before we leave!
I’ve had to rein myself in when it comes to picking up vacation “essentials.” The house we’re renting has a pool AND is on the beach, so there are some baby safety considerations. While I have my eye on a $50 beach shelter, I’m still unsure about flotation devices. We already have a large, foldable outdoor gate (formerly the “baby jail”) that may be useful for corralling purposes. I’ve already spent money on a backseat organizer for the car ride down and water shoes so the sand doesn’t burn her little feet. We’re going to use her old Pack ‘n’ Play for a crib, but I want to pick up a $25 playard mattress so she can rest more comfortably at night. We have some beach toys we got for her birthday in February, so that’s covered. She has plenty of sun hat that she won’t wear, and I don’t think I’ll bother with baby sunglasses for the same reason.
My husband believes he needs some T-shirts, and I desperately need a new bathing suit (or two), which is something I’d better buy sooner rather than later — I saw SWEATERS on the racks in Target the other day. I’ve stocked up on sunblock.
Making Our Own Meals to Save Money
What will be nice is that we’ll be buying our own food, with just one dinner planned for a local restaurant. Between the 12 of us, we’re renting a grill and propane tank for $60 a week – that’s just $5 per person — and the majority of our meals will involve BBQ. Breakfast can be a simple bowl of cereal or a “fancier” meal of eggs, bacon and toast, or even pancakes.
We’re all meeting up one day this month to talk about what food we’ll be bringing or buying once we’re in North Carolina and also set up a meal schedule — each of us will try our hand at cooking a meal for the group.
Another thing we’ll be planning is who will bring which items. Do we need 10 beach umbrellas when two pop-up canopies would do? So we’ll sort out things of that nature, too, so we’re not buying or bringing superfluous items — we’ll have enough to bring with us as it is! Since Miss Frugalista will be the only child there, we’re in charge of all of the baby stuff.
So besides food, gas for the car, and a few clothing necessities, we shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money — even the house rental was more than reasonable for a 7-day stay. We’re definitely looking forward to the trip, which we think will be a lot of fun.
Has anyone else taken a young toddler on a beach vacation? Is there anything else we should bring with us?
Miss Frugalista is turning into a (much cuter version) of the Energizer bunny — she just keeps going, and going, and going.
And I’m having a hard time keeping up with her!
Now, I realize I’m also one of those always-going people. In fact, my endocrinologist asked if I worked out a lot because my pulse is always so low. I almost died laughing at that one. I don’t exactly have an athletic build — in fact, an old softball teammate remarked that it was ‘painful’ to watch me run. You can’t run too gracefully with these curves.
Anyway, back to my point, that I’m always doing something. I could be painting trim, putting up sheetrock, planing doors or working in the yard at any given time. I don’t know what downtime is. Mr. Not-So-Frugal knows that it’s like pulling teeth to get me to sit down and watch a TV show — even if it’s one I like. I don’t have an “off” switch.
That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our daughter is turning out to be a mini-me. Other mothers tell me all about how their similarly-aged child will sit on a blanket with them at the park in a shade and play with toys, or sweetly pass out on the couch (or, even more oddly, on a baby trampoline, but that’s neither here nor there).
My child? She’s just turned 17 months old and is already climbing the stairs standing up and holding the railing on one side, and holding my hand on the other. She’s picking up her little leg and trying to swing it over any obstacle that gets in the way of her running like a loon around the house. Baby gate? Leg goes up. Crib? Leg goes up. Thank goodness she’s still short, but I’m counting the days until she figures out how to escape the crib. THEN we’re in trouble.
Forget trying to corral her. If she’s feeling too-contained, she will point and whine and plead her case until you get her out of what I lovingly call “baby jail.” A trip into Mommy’s office results in all of the books being pulled off the bookshelves. Bath time never involves just sitting in the 3 inches of water and playing — she’s standing and trying to turn on the faucet. And her idea of unwinding before bedtime is to take the two 2-foot-wide pillows from the futon in her room, lay them on the ground, and JUMP on them, face/belly first. So, dear readers, you can see how exhausted I am. My only solace is that she really doesn’t get herself into trouble.
We’re going to a trip to North Carolina next month, where we’ll be the only ones out of our group of 12 friends who has a child. Folks, I hope you’re ready for the Tasmanian Toddler — we’re gonna need a lot of sangria after she goes to bed!
I now understand how parents can want to give their child the world — both figuratively and literally. Every cute outfit, every neat toy I see, I have to dig deep inside to find some restraint so I don’t wind up with a cart full of kid stuff in my cart at the store. Target, I’m talking about you here.
Between Christmas in December and Miss Frugalista’s first birthday in February, we were inundated with toys and clothes. I did think to request summer outfits in a larger size — which our little chunker is quickly growing out of already — and some small beach/pool items for our upcoming trip to North Carolina.
Toys are in abundance here, too. We have lots of little toys that play songs and teach the alphabet and numbers, along with the more traditional wooden blocks and fabric dolls. There are a few larger items, too, such as an outdoor water table and slide (two separate items), a music table, rocking horse, bouncy turtle, and a small Fisher-Price Little People dollhouse. That’s all in addition to the Little People ZooTalkers zoo and about 15 different animals that go with it. (Aside: Do you know how freakin’ hard it was to find most of those animals? They’re never in stores, so I wound up ordering many of them from the Fisher-Price website at $3 a pop.)
She has a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, a Radio Flyer wagon complete with seats, seat belts and canopy, and, not to be outdone, a motorized mini Power Wheels car. Then there’s the stuff at her babysitter’s house.
Since her birthday in February, I haven’t bought her anything “major” besides some extra ZooTalkers animals and her Fisher-Price dollhouse. However, I do have my eye on a little outdoor playhouse for her…
Do you have trouble controlling your spending impulses when it comes to your little ones? Please tell me it’s not just me!
Now that our little one is eating “real” food, I’ve started changing what I buy at the grocery store. She needs healthy, nourishing meals — foods without fillers (pink slime, anyone?) that are dense in nutrients. I don’t want her to grow up to be a vegetable-hater, like me.
It took until I was 21 to eat a salad without gagging. I still don’t enjoy them, unless it’s a salad full of things that aren’t good for me. Caesar salad is delicious for some reason that I can’t figure out — maybe it’s the anchovies in the dressing? I’m also the same person who doesn’t like tuna fish but will eat raw tuna sushi.
The biggest change has been an increase in the fruit and vegetables in the house right now. I like a combination of fresh and frozen veggies, as the frozen ones last longer and can be portioned out.
Right now, Little Frugalista is OBSESSED with meatballs and bread. It might be our Italian heritage, or it might be her mommy’s predisposition to loving anything that’s carb-filled or full of fat, but a toddler can’t live on meatballs forever… right? So I decided to make a healthier version of my mother-in-law’s delicious red-meat Italian meatballs.
I substituted turkey meat for the ground beef and add minced broccoli florets. I call them…. broccoli balls. I don’t put anything fancy in them, and I’m sure you can substitute other soft-cooked, minced vegetables. I’m going to try increasing the veggie content and reducing the bread crumbs in the near future. But for now, here’s the recipe I came up with on my own.
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/3 cup chopped broccoli florets (I buy them frozen)
1/2 cup Italian-flavored bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray or olive oil. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands. Shape into balls. Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Other Food Ideas
Some other toddler food recipes I’ve come across include “veggie patties” made using flour, eggs and vegetables. I’ve even gone so far as to smear pureed peas on a slice of bread, adding a piece of cheese and grilling it like a grilled-cheese sandwich. Everything still has to be cut up into little bite-size pieces. We also give Little Frugalista white-meat chicken bits, diced fruit, diced peas and carrots, and bananas, which may be her favorite food, ever. For fruit, I’m looking forward to introducing her to cantaloupes and honeydew melons next!
Any other ideas for getting more vegetables into our diets?
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I work a full-time job with a crazy schedule that allows me some extra time to do some freelancing writing and editing. I’m not a TV-watcher like my husband, who could spend every minute of the day (and night) in front of the boob tube, so in my free time, I hustle for a little extra money to offset any major expenses and pad our savings account.
Now that we have Baby Frugalista — who turned 1 year old on Groundhog Day, and will always be my “baby,” no matter her age — I’ve sought out fewer gigs so I can spend more time with her. It’s a no-brainer, but it gives me more pleasure to spend an hour at the park with her than to write an article. But with the costs associated with raising a child (CNN reports a 40% increase in the cost of raising a child in the past decade), such as food, clothing, daycare and saving for college, I find that we could use that extra money.
After our daughter was born, I was on maternity leave for 6 months. So not only was I not getting my usual salary, I wasn’t freelancing, either. When I went back to work, I was able to find a balance — I’d only take on freelance assignments if I would be able to complete them in the evenings after the baby went to sleep. That meant not working on projects on my days off or weekends. As she settled into a bedtime routine, I found that this is what has worked for me. We still have family time, and I still get to keep my skills sharp and increase our cash flow.
The good thing is that I can accept most projects offered to me, but I’ve also turned down a few that didn’t fit into my self-imposed limitations.
It’s just one of the ways my life has changed since her birth. As parents, you’re supposed to make sacrifices for your children, and I do so willingly and lovingly.
Working parents — how have you sacrificed when it comes to balancing work and family?
Oh, the neuroses multiply. Today, I fully recognized another of my fabled frugal quirks: If I want to get rid of an old box, I faithfully cut the UPCs off the box of every major item we purchase.
Well, maybe that’s two quirks.
1. I hold on to the original packaging of most electronic items, or other merchandise if I deem it will be useful sometime in the future. You never know, in 2024, I might finally need to put the bed blanket back in the plastic zippered pouch it came in. Cell phones, handset phones, laptops, cameras — you name it, I have the box around here somewhere. I kept a lot of the boxes to Baby Frugalista’s stuff for a while, just in case we needed to return a defective swing or Pack ‘N’ Play.
2. When I finally decide to toss one of these boxes — either after I can no longer return the item for a refund or I go on a decluttering binge — I have to cut the UPC out and save it. Many times, the item’s model number and serial number are also printed above or below the bar code. I’ve never actually had to use it, but it will eventually help if I need under-warranty service on any of our stuff. Again, perhaps in 2024.
Lest you picture our house as a box-filled hovel, realize that we rarely buy new electronics and use the hell out of most other things. I do periodically throw stuff out, and any boxes we’re still holding on to are carefully secreted away in one of the closets or in the basement storage area.
As for papers and books, I gleefully admit that I hoard those. In fact, I’m staring at a huge pile of papers right now. It’ll get done, eventually. Right after I rake the leaves in the yard this weekend. Or not.