As someone who is still pretty new to the concept of living frugally, I’ve been challenged to find ways to save money and live simply, but still have wiggle room for fun. We’re blessed to live in Columbus, Ohio, which offers a great variety of free or economical activities for families, and we definitely take advantage of them. We hit up local parks, use the fantastic libraries, and take advantage of attractions with reasonably priced family passes-hello, Columbus Zoo! While I do love being frugal (weird, I know), we have one area where we regularly splurge, and that is the North Market.
We go as a family every Sunday, have lunch together, and buy some groceries. Even though it’s spending a bit more than at the grocery store, we really feel strongly that we’re doing what is best for ourselves by buying fresh and local produce, milk, and meat. We have our weekly “steak Sunday” tradition, so we always buy a couple of fillets from Bluescreek Farms, along with the occasional batch of meatloaf, or pack of pepper bacon. At The Greener Grocer, we get our weekly vegetables and fruit, as well as milk from Snowville Creamery. And if you haven't tried Snowville, I promise you, you won't ever want to go back to the store brand! We like personally knowing the people who provide us our food, and knowing the processes behind what they provide. We think it all tastes better. And we love knowing we are helping the local economy in our own small way.
Another big attraction that the North Market holds for us are the merchants themselves. We didn’t realize this until recently, but we are seen as regulars. The wonderful Smith family who run the farm and the meat stand (hi, Cheryl and David!) have actually held back our regular order for us on Sundays, and have it wrapped and ready to go. The employees at Pastaria and Heil's Deli know our preferences, and always make sure to tuck in extra napkins and flatware for the Little Dude’s benefit. Other employees recognize us on sight, and make a point out of saying hello to our son, giving him stickers, and being as friendly as possible. If we have guests from out of the area, the North Market is where we take them!
By being frugal in other areas of our lives, we have the ability to splurge on something meaningful to us, while having a bit left over to spare. We’ve given up fast food, don’t buy soda unless we have guests who may want it, shop with coupons (and yes, I keep a SMALL stockpile), buy used, save for bigger purchases, etc., etc. My point with this is that it is possible to be frugal, but to still have a life. It’s just a matter of finding out what your priorities are.