Thrifty Summer Activities That Are Fun AND Productive

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I don’t know if you are like me, but I prefer summer activities that are fun AND productive. It isn’t that I want to be constantly working, but non-productive activities that use up resources like time and money aren’t usually fun to me. Sure, I’ll binge-watch the latest series on Netflix. But, I’m generally doing something besides staring at the screen eating potato chips.

I think this mindset is a good thing because frugality isn’t just about money. It’s about the use of all your resources. Most of the hobbies I enjoy are productive in some way or another. They help me be more fit and healthy, I produce something, or I learn something. Here are some hobbies that you can best take up during the warm days of summer.

Get Growing

Gardening is one of my favorite summer activities that is fun and productive. Growing the food you eat in your backyard gives you a lot of satisfaction. You can spend many relaxing hours out there digging in the dirt. If you don’t have the space for a garden, you can still grow your own food. Check out this article and this one for ideas and suggestions to help you grow a garden in small spaces.

If gardening is an activity you like, check social media to find local gardening groups. I’ve found this is a great way to meet like-minded people. Another way to get your hands dirty if you don’t have space is Community Gardens. Individuals or groups can rent plots of land for as little as $35 per year to grow gardens.

Go to Your Local Farmer’s Market

There are lots of fun and productive reasons to shop at the farmer’s market. Access to fresh, peak-season fruits and vegetables is one yummy reason! And, you are supporting local farmers and your community. Many Farmer’s Markets will have all your favorite produce and even some you have never had. Getting out and strolling through the market is a nice way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning. If you have kids, take them with you and let them pick out a few things on their own! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Learn to make homemade jam using your home-grown fruits or the fruits you find at the Farmer’s Market. Try making your own dehydrated fruit and veggie snacks too.

Cook New Meals With Your Farmer’s Market Goodies

So, you brought home all those fresh, delicious fruits and veggies from the Farmer’s Market. Now what? Why not spend some time trying out new ingredients and recipes. Each week, pick one or two items from your fresh produce and find a recipe you have never tried. You’ll broaden your horizons and learn a new skill at the same time. Even better if the produce you choose is unfamiliar to you! 

Tip: Ask the Farmer or Vendor at the Farmer’s Market for recipe ideas. They may just have the perfect one for you.

Hiking is Good For Your Sole and Your Soul

Hiking is an excellent exercise for the body AND the mind. Being out in the woods is peaceful and a great break from the buzz of electronics and everyday life. Not sure where to hike? Check out AllTrails to explore trails in your area. You can even narrow down your choices to match your capabilities!

Not only is hiking a free or inexpensive activity, according to WebMD, hiking offers these benefits:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise
  • Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs
  • Strengthen your core
  • Improve balance
  • Help control your weight
  • Improve your mood

Get Wildcraft-y

I enjoy hiking to places where I can wildcraft herbs and forage for food to take home with me. Make sure you know EXACTLY what you are harvesting, lest you poison yourself and your family. It’s also good to practice sustainable harvesting. In other words, don’t take more than you need and consider whether or not the plants and herbs you gather are at-risk of being over-harvested. 

Learning Herbs offers these tips on Wildcrafting Responsibly:

  • Know the Environment: know and understand what is abundant or what may be considered “at risk” in your particular area
  • Have a Plan: never set off into the woods (or anywhere else) without a proper plan
  • Harvest From “Clean” Areas: forage in pollution, spray, and litter-free areas
  • Identify: learn to accurately identify your herbs and mushrooms
  • Be Conservative in Your Harvest: only harvest what you truly need
  • Leave Nature As Good As (or Better) Than You Found it: remove all your garbage and pick up any litter you see
  • Prepare and Inform: have the necessary equipment, wear appropriate clothing and always let somebody know where you’re headed and how long you will be gone.
  • Check Out the Legalities of Your Area: Check out the laws and regulations in your areas about where it is legal to gather and if permits are required. Never trespass.

Nothing makes me happier than putting together a meal from ingredients I found in the wild. One year, I found white mulberries, morels, and fiddlehead ferns to add to the menu.

Yard Saling

Yes, I just used a form of “sale” as a verb.

Another of my favorite summer activities is grabbing my list and heading out to the local yard sales. One year, I got my daughter’s entire school wardrobe from a yard sale for only $50. I didn’t go there looking for it, but suddenly, we stumbled upon a yard sale with jeans, t-shirts, boots, and a winter coat from my daughter’s favorite store. I made an offer and bought the entire inventory. We only needed to grab a pair of new sneakers before school started.

Not sure how to find yard sales? Social media platforms are often useful to find garage and yard sales in your area. There are also a few websites that can help you in your search. (Most of those require sign up and some might charge a few.) Of course there’s the old-school way, newspaper classifieds or just look for the sign.

The Great Outdoors

Camping is a great, inexpensive getaway you can do with the entire family. Not only are you relaxing and spending quality family time, you’re also improving your self-reliance skills. Most people don’t have to go far to find a campground, but, make sure you plan. Campgrounds fill up fast during the Summer months. You may have to reserve ahead to secure that spot. 

Camping doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose to “Cheap-Camp.” Here’s an article on with 17 tips on how to camp on a budget.

While you are out there camping, if there’s a pond or a lake nearby, grab your rod and reel and go fishing. Going fishing is two-fold. You get to go out and enjoy a peaceful day on the water, AND, if you’re lucky, you’ll also bring home dinner. (And maybe even some extras for more meals.) Never been fishing? This article offers great information for beginners.

Not big on fishing? Go swimming, play in the water! It’s a fun way to get fit and stay cool. 

Backyard Camping & Cooking

If camping away from home is not an option, take it out back: your back yard, a neighbor’s back yard, a family member’s back yard. You can easily pitch a tent, or even a make-shift one and fall asleep under the stars. What’s really great about camping in the backyard is it’s FREE. Also, it’s a nice ending to the day to go out back, light a fire, and roast your dinner over that fire.

A backyard campfire, just like camping, is an excellent way to practice your fire building skills. And, cooking an inexpensive meal over that fire is productive, satisfying and fun. (You won’t heat up the inside of your house either!)

Make Ice Cream

This summer activity is fun, productive and delicious! Nothing is tastier than homemade ice cream, and if you make it yourself, it will be healthier, too. (No HFCS!) Use your farmer’s market fruit finds to make organic homemade ice cream. Enjoy the cool, yummy goodness for a fraction of the price you’d pay for high-quality store-bought. And you do NOT need an ice cream maker! Here are instructions for making ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Expand Your Mind

Is there something that you’ve been dying to learn? Maybe now is the time. Some colleges offer summer school courses. Many community centers also offer classes at very reasonable prices. There are even websites that offer online courses in specialty things like Wildcrafting and Foraging you can take from the comfort of your own home. There is a monetary investment in these, however, it’s also an investment in you, and you are well worth it!

The Organic Prepper has this affordable course on Building a Better Pantry

Get Organized

An excellent, productive activity to do indoors on a hot day is organization. Put your loose photos into a scrapbook, organize your paperwork, or tackle that linen closet! What about that pantry you started building? Take this time to make sure it’s all labeled and organized correctly. 

Need a few more ideas? Go through your closets. Sort out anything that doesn’t fit or never gets worn and get it ready to donate. Tackle the fridge and freezer. Sort and organize all those “junk drawers.” Clean and reorganize your kitchen cabinets. You might even end up with enough stuff to have your own yard sale.

Go Someplace With Air Conditioning

And, last but not least…

This is is only as productive as you make it. But if you’re trying to keep your household bills moderate, consider spending the hottest part of the day at a library or bookstore. Doing this can be a real life saver if you don’t have air conditioning of your own. Do some reading and enjoy their air conditioning without sacrificing your budget. 

What fun, frugal things do you do in the summer?

What are your favorite productive summer activities that don’t cost a lot of money? Share them in the comments!

Thrifty Summer Activities That Are Fun AND Productive
Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

6 thoughts on “Thrifty Summer Activities That Are Fun AND Productive”

  1. Summers:
    I love gardening.
    I do enjoy secondhand stores. We’re are too far from any town for yard sales but if I’m in the city for an appointment I do check Craigslist free things and some specific sale listings.

    I cook outside a lot and enjoy relaxing in my yard.

    I look at my shelves of home canned food and feel like I’ve accomplished something good. Today’s was 9 pints of blueberries. Yesterday was 18 pints of meat.

    I forrage in my own yard.

    It must be the year of organizing. I almost died of covid in early 2020. Unfinished projects abound from last year. I’ve finished up some, Sorted tools, sorted clothing- nice loosing most of 50lb while so sick and keeping most of it off for a year. I’ve been giving all my clothes away and bought a lot at secondhand stores, garden items had been left in the house for a year are now moving out to a little shed in the backyard, cleaning and sorting is my summer activity after a year not being able to do that, so yes I’m much better finally.

    I’m finally reading some again so organizing the bookcases seemed like a logical thing to do last week. I finally have related subjects back together again.

    I’ve set an old table and two chairs out on a porch where I can relax and enjoy the afternoon breeze after a busy day. Then work on the garden till dark.

    I’ve mixed flowers with vegetables in my expanded garden. It’s pretty walking through the garden. I’m adding a formed pond with watercress and a wild waterlily. Both edibles and beauty to enjoy.

    Cats with new kittens are fun and rabbits with new babies are sweet.

    I’ll soon be harvesting food from my garden. I usually cook in the yard and take advantage of the fresh produce. Wash and prepare straight from the garden. It’s a chance to try new varieties. Thats fun too.

    I’m enjoying the neighbors three grandchidren ages 1, 4, and 5. They have a million questions but will taste anything fresh from the garden.

    Summer is the perfect time to feed and watch hummingbirds. We sometimes see 9 different coloration and sizes. I keep a feeder on the porch where I can sit still and watch them come and go. I’m still resting a lot between bursts of activity so using those times to enjoy the shade, gentle breezes, and beautiful hummingbirds.

  2. Daisy, I have been doing just what you suggested in Montana my new home.
    Another great timely article. Lots to do and see in Montana.

  3. I also prefer to spend time productively, although I consider rest productive as well. I often write in front of the TV. I also purchased a used bicycle, for exercise and also to see my neighborhood first-hand. Riding the local bike trails will be pretty. And yes, gardening. Just staying on top of that and the house keeps my mind occupied and gets things done.

  4. The library is such a good suggestion- the joy of shopping with zero expense. We bought a beat up old canoe my teen son found on Craigslist, patched it up, and spent all last summer in it exploring our state parks and picnicking. Best $150 we could’ve spent. My son was proud of himself for spending his own money and owning his own boat that the whole family enjoyed. He loves taking his friends out, too. We’re taking your suggestion about foraging. I took a roadkill class this spring and learned how to butcher roadkill. It sounds gross but a fresh, clean kill is a common thing, and venison and squirrel are delicious. Also archery is fun and now that ammo is so expensive, it’s a much cheaper way to work on your marksmanship.

  5. Using a bow to hunt is so cruel and inhumane. The animal runs frantically while they bleed to death. Sometimes the hunter loses interest and moves on to their next target.Using a rifle is fast and painless.

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