Backyard Campfire Cooking: A New Idea for Frugal Family Fun Nights

By Staff

Here lately, we have been trying to come up with winter activities to add to our collection of frugal family fun night ideas. While making trick-or-treating rounds on Halloween night we noticed several families with fire bowls burning a campfire. That looked like a lot of fun, as we don’t get the opportunity to do much camping, and my kids haven’t seen many campfires.

The Fire Bowl Search Begins

We scoured the sale papers and Craigslist over the last couple weeks, but couldn’t find any particularly good deals this time of year, until yesterday.  We had looked at a couple fire bowl models are Target, but I was convinced they were overpriced (not that I had much to base that on, but this was Target, and they aren’t exactly known for their deals on large, household items).  On Saturday night we looked at one, even put it in the shopping cart for closer inspection.  It was $79.99.  We decided to put it back, convinced that just wasn’t in the budget.  The next day it was on sale for $55.00!  I dashed back the store on Sunday and picked up the last fire bowl on the shelf.

My wife had already picked up a set of pokers for the four of us from the dollar store.  I stopped by the grocery store and grabbed a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and found a three-pack of Hershey bars on sale.  I also grabbed a small bag of firewood, though I’ll be rounding up some free wood from now on.

Assembling the Fire Bowl, and the S’mores

On Sunday night we assembled the fire bowl.  It was a snap; we simply had to attach the four legs and the handle for the screen cover.  I rounded up some kindling and an old brown paper sack to get the fire going, while my wife prepared the trimmings for hot dogs.  When the fire was hot I added two pieces of firewood and we sat around and roasted our hot-dogs and marshmallows.  The kids loved making S’mores, and best of all, enjoyed being outside cooking on a campfire in their own backyard!

Fire Bowl Safety Reminders

  1. Follow manufacturer recommendations on how far the fire bowl should be from a structure, such as your house.
  2. Use a pot holder of the hook end of a poker to lift the handle on the screen cover.  I only learned this myself after burning the fingerprints off my left hand when grabbing the fire bowl’s screen top handle.  Doh!
  3. Do not set the fire bowl down directly on grass, particularly in dry conditions.  While the fire remains well above the ground, hot embers could drop through the drain in the bottom of the bowl and ignite the grass.  Consider a small paved area, or kill back the grass and put down a few bricks to keep the fire bowl up off the ground.
  4. Watch small kids! Do not leave small children unattended around the fire bowl.  Curiosity could get the best of them and if they get too close they could inadvertently ignite their clothing.

Basically, apply the same rules you would for an inside fire in a fireplace, but be a little more vigilant since the fire is accessible from all sides. A backyard campfire is a great way to spend a fall or early-winter evening, and once you have the basic supplies it is an inexpensive way to entertain your family.