Frugal Made Easy: Part Five

Becoming more frugal can seem challenging for some.  It is definitely a lifestyle, a mindset, and an intention.  When a more frugal lifestyle is applied, however, it becomes involuntary and is highly rewarding.  It can even be liberating.

Our family’s path to frugality was born from a sheer hatred of our day jobs.  Let it be clearly understood that we are extremely thankful to have jobs, but that does not mean we have to like them.  Working everyday in a passionless pursuit makes punching a clock for “the man” heartbreaking at times.  But, we soldiered on…

Until one day…

We realized that we were indeed, very green and sustainable in a recycling kind of way, but we were sort of missing the “reduce and reuse” component of that circuit.

We took a HARD look at our lifestyle, which at the time we thought wasn’t all that compulsive; but indeed it was and there was a lot of room for change, growth, and efficiency.

So we set out to find frugality, wherever it was hiding, and we chased it all about our lives until we finally understood it, caught up with it, and became friends with it.

Friends with frugality.

Being frugal does not mean being cheap.  Being cheap is for jerks who are greedy and self-interested.  Being frugal does not always mean buying a lesser quality.  Sometimes it is frugal to buy the highest quality item with the knowledge that it will last 10 times longer than the inferior product.  Being frugal does not mean shivering all winter in your unheated house, eating only rice and beans and ramen.

Being frugal does mean making thoughtful and intentional purchases and making your own products when it is practical and prudent to do so.  It is reusing and re-purposing items before recycling them, creating a budget, and fine tuning your household to achieve more cost savings. Being frugal is being creative and making due with what you have, and sometimes it means intentionally going without. Being frugal can be gleaning, gardening, bartering and labor-trading. It can also be shopping around, saving up, and spending wisely.  Collectively, being frugal means celebrating all of your efforts because generally your time spent on frugality is less time spent ‘working for the man!’  Hooray for that.

I will ‘attempt’ to describe some frugal tips and tricks we have applied to our lifestyle over the years, and when I say ‘attempt’ I truly mean it, because it is hard to bottle up our whole life in a few blog posts.  We are not perfect, nor do we strive to be.  We have found a system that works for us, and if you are at a point in your life where you are interested in making a few small changes, some of these tips may be right for you.

I promise to do my very best if you promise to be patient…

I have put together a series on frugality with 5 installments. I hope you take away from them something you find helpful. If you are already solvent, perhaps you might share these tips with someone who isn’t?  That would be the frugal thing to do :)

Part Five: Frugal Garden

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The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Gardens are undoubtedly one of the most important things humans can put their time into other than their children.  They are a place of work and rest; of food and medicine; of joy and learning, and of life and death.  Gardens can be simple or complex, small or large, tiny; grown in containers, or rows or barrels, or raised beds. All are perfect and all are beautiful.

But, they are not always inexpensive, especially at first…

Yes.  The cost of wholesome, organic, backyard grown food that you grew yourself definitely outweighs the costs of the garden; and such food may even be priceless to some.  Me being one of those folks.  But, realistically speaking, it costs money to start and maintain an organic garden, especially if you are new to gardening.  DH and my very first garden of our own was in 2007, when we finally moved from apartment life into an actual houses with  a yard!  We had no idea really what we did or didn’t need; bought a bunch of useless stuff at a big box store, and set out to make the very best garden we could make.  We got an “A” for effort, at least.  In fact, that garden still stands and is much improved and has been lovingly maintained by friends of ours.  That is a lovely thought 🙂

Along the way, we have striven for better every year,  by setting learning goals for our garden in an effort to hone our skills, and have tried to expand it every year.  We have picked up a few tricks along the way, but, we are by no means someone you should ask gardening questions to.  🙂 We are not experts.  Just frugal folks in the city trying to make a better life for ourselves and our child on our little patch of earth we call the “P Patch.”

Frugal Garden Tips

If you have no space for a garden, join a community garden.  These tracts of land have free or cheap plots for individuals to make their own gardens, or sometimes the garden is ran collectively, and every participant gets a share.  Either way–if you have no space, a garden is not impossible!

  • Start Seeds Indoors.  Starting seeds instead of buying starts can save you a ton of cash!  Yes, sometimes it is easier to get starts, and it might be the best choice for certain things, especially if you don’t have a green house, but with a whole entire seed packet being three dollars vs. one plant being three dollars a piece, you can easily see how quickly it would all add up.  Start seeds whenever it is prudent to do so, and you can do it easily and cheaply with a DIY grow light!

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  • Build A DIY Grow Light.  Garden-DIY light DH crafted an AMAZING, cheap and easy grow light for us this year.  I think it cost a total of $8.  He used “Y” adaptors (for light sockets), a cardboard box from a 12 pack of beer, tinfoil, and daylight CFL’s, and a light socket to male-outlet adapter.  He screwed it all together, added the tinfoil covered cardboard box as the shield, set it all up on a timer, and grew some pretty amazing tomato plants!  Way to go, DH!

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  • Use Only Heirloom, or Seeds That Don’t Contain the Terminator Gene.  Everyone knows Monsanto is evil.  They don’t want you to be able to save seed and feed yourself.  Choose carefully when selecting your seed packets.  Monsanto owns many companies and the seeds of those companies are engineered to not be able to be saved to grow for another season.  Be certain that your seeds are from a reputable source, so they can live to grow another season!
  • Take Cuttings From Plants You Already Have.  Last year I bought tons of basil plants.  Why?  This year I broke a stem off of my basil plant, plopped it in a cup of water, and practically watched it root.  It happened so fast!  I put that baby basil plant out in the garden and it’s happy as ever.  It’s not that easy with all plants, but don’t be afraid to give it a shot.  Also, offer your neighbors some cutting of your plants– and hopefully they will offer you some back 🙂  Neighborly plant exchanges are a great way to save money!
  • Join a Seed Exchange Club.  These clubs are all over.  My local library even hosts one, and I seem to miss the event every year.  Look around on the web, ask your local librarian, and don’t forget to cruise facebook as a way to find these clubs.  There are nationwide clubs as well as local ones.  My favorite one on the web is hereThis one is also good too.
  • Join a Plant Exchange.  Just like a seed exchange, but better!  (In my opinion…)  You get a plant ready to go.  You can offer cuttings and bulbs for trade and make requests for items you’d like as well.  My favorite plant exchange is here, and I have been watching my friend have great success on facebook with this exchange club.  Also, if you are not familiar with Garden Web, check them out!  It is the internet’s largest community of gardeners; all lovely people willing to help, trade, and chat.

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  • Host a Seed/Plant Exchange Party!  Rally all of your friends, neighbors and community members and have an exchange party!  It’s a great way to save money, build community, and get advice.  I for one, have packets of seeds I will never get through, because I just don’t plant that much of that particular seed.  I’d much rather trade or share it with someone instead of having the seed go bad.  Hosting a party like this might allow you to meet some of your like minded neighbors that you have been hoping to meet, and to form some lasting (gardening) relationships 🙂
  • Make Your Own Garden Markers.  My very first garden I ever had, I bought these plastic garden markers because I couldn’t imagine how I would identify my plants without out.  My, how my way of thinking has changed 🙂  Now I use twigs to show me that something is planted there, but I don’t wast time making little signs to identify.  I keep a garden log to keep my garden organized, and I make a map of what was planted and when.  It has been a great tool for me.  If that’s not for you, you can save old popsicle sticks to write on, or paint the names of plants on flat rocks for cute and decorative markers.  Whatever you do, I assure you, you don’t need to buy plastic garden markers.  Your garden will survive without it 😉
Salvaged Broom Handle and Wire Rack

Salvaged Broom Handle and Wire Rack

  • Salvage Your Garden Supplies Old pallets are amazing for gardens.  You can make a vertical garden, a compost bin, planter boxes, raised beds, or just about anything you can dream up from this often free resource!  One of my favorite ideas for pallet planting I have seen lately is for planting potatoes.  Check out this awesome tutorial.  Also, I have recently read how a gardener gets free wood from commercial window glass companies.  Industrial sized windows need hefty crates, and they will often give this wood away for free.  I haven’t tried this idea yet, bu you bet I am looking up some glass companies in my area!  Also, if you have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you, they are a great place to get used building materials.   Greener, cheaper, a lighter footprint, and donating to a not-for-profit organization;  you can’t go wrong  buying from there.
  • Repair Your Hoses.  A leaky garden hose wastes sooooooo much water!  Not only is there not enough water in the world to waste, but it cost money.  And a lot of it.  Our water bill doubles in the summer months, and we don’t even water our lawn!  garden-3 So repairing a leaky hose for us is vital, but it also saves money on the costly hoses.  You can cut out the leaky section and replace it with a bit of pipe and some clamps. Our hoses are so old and have been repaired too many times; so this year we might have to pony up the cash to get new ones.  Sometimes ya gotta.
  • Water Efficiently.  In the morning or late afternoon.  Don’t water in midday only to have it evaporate.  It’s bad for your plants, and your pocket book.
  • Make Bulk Buys.  Buying garden supplies like compost, soil, mulch, soil inputs, etc. is always cheaper in bulk.  If you can’t ever get through the standard minimum 5 yards that most companies want to deliver, than consider getting together with your neighbors and sharing.  It’s really a win-win.  Bags of Black Gold are going to add up quickly.  (Not that I have any experience with that or anything…) 😉
  • Plant the Natives.  Plant plants that are native to your area.  They survive the climate, require less water, and are more likely to survive and thrive!

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  • Get Free Mulch!  In my city there are a couple tree-trimming services that give away their wood chips. It is a u-load, u-haul set up, and DH and I have to make several trips in our truck (so it’s not often worth the time and gas for us).  But, for those who need only a small bit, what a GREAT resource!

What about you?  What frugal garden tips have you picked up along the way?

Share your knowledge with us in the comments below, or join us on facebook and Pinterest!

{This post is the fifth and final installment in the series, “Frugal Made Easy.”  To read up on what other topics I’ve discussed and to start at the beginning, click here}

Shared With:  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

 

Sustain, Create and Flow

4 Comments

  1. I am honored to keep your old garden alive and productive. Thanks for getting it started and inspiring us!

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