My attempt, last autumn, to take a cute Pinterest-like picture
of the Munchkin with a pumpkin. FAIL.
The cooler temperatures have, of course, been incredibly welcome for we poor cool-weather cravers. In addition, grilling over the summer is nice, but many of my favorite foods (squashes, apples, root vegetables!) all come into season at this time of year, when it's cool enough to want to cook and eat them. I'm still enjoying a few last nectarines from the farmer's market, but the transition to All Things Apple is one I'm enjoying. A glass of sweet cider from the apples we pressed, apples with cheese as my lunch, or mulled apple cider (again, from our own cider!) for dessert...bliss.
What does any of this have to do with frugality, the purported purpose of this blog? Many things.
1) Autumn means a lack of heating and/or air conditioning. Yep, turn those bad boys off to save some serious dough. Daytime temperatures are still heating up the house, but opening a window to take advantage of the breeze actually works, which it didn't when the temps were over 90.
Whenever I've had to pay for climate control, my roommate (or spouse) and I have made a game to see how long into autumn we could go without turning on the heat. When HusbandX and I lived in our dry cabin, heating fuel was massively expensive. I remember it being $1200 for 500 gallons (I think), which is not much fuel in Fairbanks but is a lot of cash for a student who's working two summer jobs to save up enough for living costs over the winter. So we decided to see if we could push off needing any heat until it snowed, which happened in late September that year. When it did snow I said, "Aw, come on, I bet we could make it even longer!" HusbandX, the killjoy, vetoed that plan.
Even after we turned on the heat, we made it a game to see how low we could comfortably keep it. It wasn't uncommon to catch me reading while bundled up, including a hat and gloves.* Autumn, however, is that lovely time of year where those extreme measures aren't needed. So enjoy it!
2) Now is the time to stock up on whatever fruits and vegetables you can. As I said above, many of them are in season, so not only are they at their tastiest, they're also at their cheapest. Or free. My annual summer stocking-up of fruit is winding down (in addition to all of the preserves, nearly half of our chest freezer is filled with blueberries, cherries, peaches, and blackberries) but vegetables and apples are still going strong. Thankfully, many of them won't need much in the way of preservation. Winter squashes should stay good for quite some time if left in a cool, dry place, as will onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apples.
Since we haven't eaten many of these autumn foods over the summer, they're also unique to our palates right now and provide the diversity we crave. Instead of feeling like we're always eating the same old things, and changing it up by going out to different places, we change our eating habits and ingredients based on the season. This ensures that we're never bored with our own cooking so going out is a special treat and one reserved strictly for seeing people we haven't been around for a long time, such as out-of-town relatives.
3) It's the season of baking. All that stuff you didn't want to make over the summer lest you heat up your abode? Now's the time to start DIYing again. Bread, cookies if you're so inclined, muffins, and anything else your heart desires. Buying these things is, generally, so much more expensive than doing it yourself, and they don't take a huge amount of time. Plus, it's fun to bake stuff. Kids, especially, enjoy helping. Ask me how I know, just please don't ask why there's flour all over the counter still.
This season is also when we haul out the slow cooker to make our meals for us, saving time (a necessity, always), money (by not ordering out or making more expensive stuff--slow cooking can make even cheap cuts of meat tender and delicious), and energy (they use very little of it). The anticipation of dinner hovers in the air all day as it cooks, and when we finally sit down to the meal it's with the desire to savor it and enjoy it to the fullest, as we've enjoyed its scent all day.
4) Autumn is the cheapest season for exercise. After all, who wants to be stuck inside on a treadmill or stair master when it's not blazing hot or cold enough to require gloves and a hat outside? It's sunny and warm, but not too warm, so get out and enjoy it! Go for walks and bike rides with friends or alone, take your kid to the park without fearing burns from the playground equipment, go hiking and camping and backpacking. I know, the allure of all your favorite TV shows coming back is tempting, but you can watch them on DVD later when it's too hot or cold to move. For now, do yourself a favor and get outside for some fresh air.
In Fairbanks, I always knew that this time of year was my last chance at sun. In many ways, it's the same down here. Instead of the sun always being down, though, it'll be hidden behind clouds for much of the winter. Either way, you don't realize how much you miss the sun until it's suddenly never there. When the Munchkin was born, in late November, I did my best to sleep when she slept, which meant that a few times I slept through the sunlight. I ended up crying when I realized what had happened, and it was hard to keep myself from becoming depressed. After the first couple of times, I decided that I wouldn't nap, no matter how tired I was, unless the sun was down, because it was too important to me to get that tiny bit of daylight. This is a lesson I want to carry forward here, since sunlight will be no less important to my peace of mind than it was in Alaska. Getting outside to walk the dog is far cheaper, and healthier, than investing in a Happy Light.
5) It's also the best season to curl up with a good (library) book and a mug of tea (or coffee, or cider, or....) I know, I just told you to get outside! But no one's going to do that all day every day, so when I do have down time, I usually spend it with a good book and a mug of tea. Library books are worlds cheaper than paying for cable, and they don't cost any electricity like running a TV does.
A book, a sunny living room, and cat or dog cuddles is, to me, the perfect way to spend the Munchkin's nap time.
6) Enjoy slowing down. Every season has its own pace, and summer's has always been rather frenetic and manic to me. There are always things going on, people to see, stuff to do that you can't do later on. I enjoy the whirlwind, but by the time autumn comes around I'm thankful for the small respites that come my way. Even when we hang out with friends now it's not so much about doing things as it is about seeing each other and catching up. We had two game nights with various friends this past weekend and not only did people show up who wouldn't have had the time over the summer (due to the other million things going on), but even the way people interacted was a bit slower, a bit calmer. We took more time to really catch up.
I hope you're enjoying the season as much as I am!
*It might sound miserable, but I think back on our time living in that cabin fondly, and I know that part of it is because of, not despite, the hardships we endured.