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Calgary on the Cheap - Springtime Fun on a Budget

Just when you thought winter would never end, spring arrives. Sure, we’re bound to have some more snow fall, and it’ll be a while before our gardens are blanketed in bright colored flowers; but the days are longer, the temperature is rising and there is so much to look forward to! Here are great tips to help you and your family embrace the season, have fun and stick to your budget.

Get your kids cooking with This site provides an array of recipes, tutorials (for kids, by kids), and cooking videos. With the help of the adorable hosts, Belle and Liv, your children will learn all of the necessary techniques to become little masters of the kitchen. Chopping onions, shredding cheese and separating eggs will be no problem; tasty dishes like Fettucini Alfredo with Artichoke Hearts and Blueberry Pie are a snap; and even young kids can get creative by making cool crafts like napkin rings and placemats. Not only will this website keep your kids busy (for free!) and make your job as a parent easier, but it’ll pique your children’s interest in food. The more they know about what’s going in their bellies, the more likely they’ll be to eat healthier, homemade food.

Sign up for daily deals. Groupon, the worldwide deal phenomenon that launched in 2008, has started quite the trend. A wide variety of websites have popped up recently offering a new deal every day - on everything from discounted gym memberships, to dental care for a fraction of the cost. Instead of signing up for all of the different sites, just sign up for one - OneSpout ( They find deals from over 50 different sites, and only send you the ones you’re interested in, once a day.

Keep toasty by a campfire. Okay, so it’s certainly not summer yet, but hanging out with friends and family around a campfire while toasting marshmallows and hot dogs is a great, inexpensive way to stay warm and still have fun outside. Try to choose a spot that isn’t too far out of town, but is far enough to make you feel like you’re having a bit of a getaway. Though there are many areas with fire pits and picnic tables in Kananaskis and Fish Creek Provincial Park, there are hundreds of sites in Alberta, so be sure to visit for more information.

Think it out. Sit down on Sunday with the whole family and plan out all of the meals for the upcoming week. Knowing what you’re going to make ahead of time, while factoring in leftovers for some lunches, will not only ease much of the stress during the week, but it’ll save you a lot of money. Check what ingredients you need, make a grocery list and go shopping as a family. A couple fresh ideas: put some items, like raw meat or bread, in the freezer if you’re not going to use them until later in the week; and, be sure to buy and prepare plenty of fresh fruits and veggies for healthy lunch and after-school snack options.

Do-it-yourself pizza. Everyone loves pizza! It’s fun to eat (hellooo, no utensils needed!), easy to order and even easier to clean up - but what most people so often forget is that it’s also a lot of fun to make! Ditch the greasy takeout pepperoni or cheese pizzas and replace them with healthier, cheaper homemade ones. Lay out individual-sized pizza crusts (homemade, store bought, or even tortilla shells or pitas work!) alongside bowls of fresh cut veggies and other goodies (bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, pineapple, olives and whatever else you can think of!), part skim shredded mozzarella and tomato sauce. Opt for pure tomato sauce or strained tomatoes instead of pizza sauce to reduce excess salt, sugar and other ingredients you’d rather not include in your family’s dinner. Let your kids be creative and encourage them to use as many colors as possible on their pizza. They’ll have a blast, and you’ll appreciate the extra few dollars that you’ll save.

Stock up on kids clothes for next year.
According to, March is one of the best times of the year to buy kids’ clothes. Not only have the spring clothes been out for a while, but stores are officially getting rid of all of the winter stock. Grab winter coats, sweaters and whatever else your child will need for next year. Doing so will give you peace of mind around the holidays next year, as you’ll have less purchasing to worry about during such a financially pressing time. Just make sure that you involve your kids in picking out most of the items so they’re excited to bring them out when next winter rolls around.

Host a family game night.
Have teenagers or preteens that are just too cool to hang out with the parents? A family game night might be the answer; yes, it’ll be tough to convince them to take part, but once you start the games, they’ll have a ton of fun - guaranteed. So grab some games and embrace the late night, not so healthy snacks, and endless belly laughs.

Have a good old-fashioned lemonade stand. It’s a strange time of year weather-wise in and around Calgary, but there are bound to be a few beautiful days as we ease into spring. Take advantage of those days and set up a lemonade stand with your children. Have them help make the lemonade, prepare the table and signs, and make some cookies or crispy marshmallow squares to sell alongside the juice. They’ll have a great time, and will have a chance to practice their math and money-handling skills.

Celebrate Earth Day. April 22 is Earth Day, and you can do your part by educating your kids on the importance of taking care of the environment and not being wasteful. Head to for information, project ideas and events near you, or send your kids over to, a fun, informative site for children.

Lastly, a couple tips for Easter fun:

Hang out with the Easter bunny at Lake Louise. Ski season is almost over, so head to Lake Louise for one last day on the slopes and then spend a couple of hours with the Easter Bunny! During Easter weekend, April 6 to 8, the big bunny himself will be at the resort, heading up an Easter egg hunt for your children. Make the trip out west, spend some time outside and give your kids the chance to have some Easter and springtime fun.

Or check out the Calendar of Events listings online on this website or the March/April 2012 issue for more great places to spend Easter with your family!

Stephanie is a freelance writer specializing in travel and food writing. For more information, visit


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