One For the Road

During June, COMPASS has shared ideas, experiences and stories about how to have fun on a summer budget. Today’s post was adapted from a past edition of Simple Living, a monthly column by Amanda Garcia and published in the Messenger magazine, the denominational magazine for the Church of the Brethren. 

On the Road

On the Road

When I was a little kid and our family minivan trekked from the Midwest to Gramma’s house in Florida, there was no greater road trip treat than chicken nuggets and orange soda. When I got older, it was a cold, chocolaty, coffee beverage with whipped cream. But these days, my idea of a “treat” while traveling looks more like a salad that’s not in a plastic box.

Fresh, healthful food can be a challenge to come by on the road, which makes eating well a challenge. Cost is another factor—when French fries cost 50 cents and an apple costs 3 dollars in an airport terminal, it can be difficult to weigh your choices. Wisely spending money and making nutritious food choices are two very different stewardship practices that need to be considered together while traveling.

In the name of simplicity, savings, and wellness, I’ve experimented with travel-friendly foods that I thought I’d pass along. If you have suggestions to add to this list, please share!

Happy trails.

  1. While driving, stop at roadside farm stands whenever possible (especially when they have homemade apple butter).
  2. Instant oatmeal packets require very little space in suitcases and make a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast almost anywhere (including hotels with in-room coffee makers).
  3. Hardboiled eggs are a great way to add protein to a meal on the run, and are especially easy to eat if they are peeled ahead of time.
  4. Slices of carrots, celery, and broccoli are tasty replacements for chips alongside a store-bought sandwich. They also don’t require refrigeration for several hours.
  5. Apples, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (pineapple, apricots, golden raisins, cranberries, bananas) are full of fiber and all natural sugars, and also require no refrigeration.
  6. Whole grain crackers travel well in a small box or bag and go perfectly with your apple butter.
  7. Almond butter and honey will also top your crackers well, and are good for stirring into oatmeal—just be sure to pack them in your checked luggage if you’re flying.
  8. Dry cereal and granola are filling and great for snacking, as well as breakfast.
  9. It’s always important to drink lots of water while traveling, so if you’re flying, pack an empty bottle and fill it with water after you get through security.
  10. If you’re traveling with a cooler, freeze bottles of water or juice for an efficient way to keep food cold instead of ice. When the liquid melts, drink it!

Amanda GarciaAbout the Author: Amanda Garcia is an Ecumenical Stewardship Center board member and a freelance writer and designer outside of Chicago. Her undergraduate degree is in Communications and Worship Arts, and she is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, where her interests in strategic planning, dynamic leadership, and good financial practices merge with her background and expertise in communications. Amanda and her husband, Dan, are avid gardeners and prioritize healthful cooking and seasonal eating all year long. They are active members of Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Elgin, IL.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credit: On the Road

Fun and Frugal Ideas for the Summer

During June, COMPASS is sharing ideas, experiences and stories for how to have summer fun on a budget. Today we welcome Nicole Brennan, a marketing assistant with the Barnabas Foundation who shares some fun and frugal ideas for the Summer. 

summer funThere are so many options for fun activities during summertime, and all those options can be expensive! I always find it amazing how quickly everything adds up, even when you watch your wallet. Since kids are home from school, it’s a surprising extra expense to keep them occupied, too.

I am one of four kids, and during the summer my parents would take us on several day trips. My favorite summer memories just happen to be budget friendly, as well. (Which is a necessity when you have multiple children!) Now, as a SYAC (single, young adult in the city) I need to mind my pennies, but have fun with my friends, too!

Here are my suggestions for fun and frugal summer ideas:

  • Day at the beach. Pack your towels, sunscreen and cooler for sandwiches for a cheap but long day! Go with another family, couple, or a few friends, too! Bring your shovels to build a sand castle, DIY lawn games (like Ladder Ball), and volleyball to keep you and kids occupied.
  • Picnics at the park. Parks (local and national) abound in the USA! Take advantage of them and the free equipment they have. Bring some leftovers, pasta salads, or summer fruit and enjoy the greenery around you. Be sure to pack a blanket and bug spray, too!
  • Free admission days to the museums or zoos. Most museums and zoos have free admission days during the summer. Be sure to check the websites of your local places for their schedules! Bonus: Heritage or cultural centers are usually free or accept a small donation, and are under-utilized by the general population. They are just as educational and most offer discounted programs, too.
  • Read at the library. Libraries are becoming increasingly unpopulated, but I sure don’t know why! Free air conditioning, summer reading programs, and free access to all the books in world… what else does someone need? Libraries also have CDs, movies, audio books, e-books, and apps for you to borrow! If you don’t have a library card, get one today!
  • Visit your city’s online calendar. Almost all cities (or villages, counties, etc.) have a website with a calendar of events. With a little research, you can find great festivals and free events in your community. I live in Chicago, and we have a wonderful city calendar, complete with notices about free concerts and weekly dance parties!
  • Attend summer/day camps. VBS (Vacation Bible School) was always a highlight of my summer, even though it wasn’t at my home church. I met new friends, learned a few verses, and stayed out of my mom’s hair for the week. Besides your church, try your YMCA, park district, and community college for day camps. Learning new skills is valuable at any age!
  • Plan a treasure hunt. Geocaching is my nieces’ favorite way to explore nature and find hidden treasures. There are over 2.5 million geocaches around the world and I assure you, dozens in your area. As long as you have a smart phone or GPS you can play this global hide and seek!
  • Check social media for DIY projects. Pinterest always has great DIY projects and games for the whole family and is budget friendly! You can easily spend a few days just finding them! Buzzfeed had a great list full of Pinterest activities for kids made out of dollar store items!
  • Google it! When in doubt, Google and Google Maps are your best friend. Find Meetup groups, free or cheap events and fests, and endless ideas to waste away the day. Learn a dance routine, try a new recipe, build a hammock, or play a new game. It’s all there on the amazing, free tool we call “the internet!”

Do you have other ideas? Something that really worked for you? Please share in the comments below!

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoy live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Summer Fun on a Budget

RevealsThe sun is shining, the water is warming up and the days are much longer. Happy Summer everyone!

COMPASS is sharing different perspectives and ideas during the month of June to help get you in the mood, and to help prepare you to have fun this summer while on a budget.  Some of the topics and questions we will share about will be:

  • Having Summer Fun on a Budget with Young Adults and Kids
  • Camping and Christian Camping as part of summer
  • Tips for Travel, Vacations and Staycations on a Budget

We’ll cover these topics and more with the help of a number of guest writers and me. To start our month of ideas, tips and conversation, consider these three questions:

  • What is your best summer memory? What makes it so memorable, and how could you make that experience happen again?
  • What kind of a budget do you have for summer fun? Or, do you need help making a budget for the summer?
  • Have you ever gone traveling on a vacation or spent a week (or more) at camp during the summer? If so, where did you go and what did you learn?

As I think about those questions, my best summer memories either all involve vacations with families and those close to me, or the fun around the summer that my wife Allison and I got married. The common denominator in all of these memories is fun outside (at a pool, playing baseball/kickball, etc.), spending good quality time with important people in my life. Allison and I will be moving later this summer for her internship toward pastoral ministry, so hopefully we’ll be able to build some fun sightseeing into our moving trip.

Allison and I on a quick summer trip last year to see a couple friends of ours be ordained as pastors.

Allison and I on a quick summer trip last year to see a couple friends of ours be ordained as pastors.

Our upcoming move and a planned trip for a friend’s wedding are considerations as we plan our summer fun budget. We look forward to hosting friends at our home this summer and exploring local options, like attending a ball game or two.

I have been very blessed to be able to travel throughout much of the United States with family and loved ones, and I’ve even seen some different parts of the world. What I’ve learned through traveling and vacations is that I really love learning about history and the stories and cultures of different places and different peoples. It gives me a better perspective about how I relate to the larger world which I am part of as one of God’s children and part of God’s creation.

Now, it’s your turn. How would you respond to these questions?

Also, I am still looking for guest writers on any of the topics above. If you would like to share a perspective or reflection, please let me know!

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.