Frugal Made Easy: Part One

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 One:  Frugal Food

Winter CSA

Frugal Kitchen

  • Get a bag drying rack Bag Drying Rack and start washing out and reusing your Ziploc bags.  Save them for special occasions, like for use in the freezer, and rinse and reuse the ones from the produce department.
  • Make your own dish soap.
  • Save the nylon bags that citrus fruits come in.
    –There are fabulous tutorials online on how to make a bonafide scrubber from them, I just haven’t ‘went there’ yet. I usually just wad it up and scrub.
    –I cut the ends off of one and wove yarn through to create a drawstring effect, and I use it as a stuff-sack for my plastic grocery bags.
    –In a pinch, they work as a sack for gathering small items from the garden.
    –I also use as an herb drying bag.
  • Save the wrappers of your real butter sticks and use them to grease pans.
    Saving Jars
  • Save all of your glass jars from items you may have bought.  I use them to:
    –Store herbs, salves, tinctures, bulk items and leftovers.
    –Use them as drinking glasses.
    –Use them as rolling pins and cookie cutters.
    –Make salad dressing in them.
  • Quit paper towels for good!  Cut pieces of cloth and hem or surge the edges.  Make a few dozen.  Just make sure you use an absorbent fabric.  (Yep, made that mistake…)  Keep 1 roll of paper towels on hand at a time (so you’re not tempted to use them). Save them for desperate times, like greasy, fishy, poopy clean up.
  • Save your coffee grounds and use in the garden as needed.  My blueberries and rhododendrons love this!

Frugal Food Preservation

  • Take up canning and pickling and make your harvest last!  There are many free community resources on learning the craft if you need help.
  • Dry your fresh herbs and store them (whole) in jars for use all year.
  • Place fresh herbs in ice cube trays and cover with olive oil.  Freeze.  Use in soups, stews, stirfrys; anytime you need oil and herbs 🙂
  • Place fresh herbs in a ziploc bag and purge as much air from the bag as possible.  Freeze.  The frozen herbs crumble easily and are great to cook with.
  • Get a food dehydrator and preserve more of your harvest.  Make your own crackers from bulk ingredients.
  • Trade preserved food among friends and neighbors to get more variety.

Frugal Food Purchases, Gleaning and Wildcrafting

  • Make a budget and stick to it.  Start with a rough idea if budgeting is hard for you, constantly trim every month until you get to where you need to be.  Start small, dream big, and go easy on yourself.
  • Buy direct from a farmer, in season.
  • Buy in bulk.  This does not mean Costco or Sam’s Club.  This means ‘bulk bin.’  Try Azure Standard.
  • Glean orchards, fields and groves after the crops have been brought in.  There are many gleaning organizations nationwide.  Seek one out in your area.
  • Buy  fresh apples at harvest time.  We wait until the tail end of the season and buy probably 50-100 pounds or so at rock bottom prices.  All of the good apples, like honey crisp are usually sold out, but the farm stands are happy to sell the last of what they have for cheap.  It’s a win-win.  We store them in the garage and they stay good all winter.  I still have some and I bought them in October.
  • Juice and freeze surplus bulk buys of citrus, apples, and other handy fruits and veggies.  On a recent trip to CA, family members brought us back more lemons than we could handle (direct from the grove), so we juiced and froze.
  • Utilize Pick Your Own.org
  • U-pick blueberries and other things available locally, and yes, you guessed it… freeze! Things that are traditionally very spendy, like blueberries, can be picked (by you) at the peak of the season for great prices and squirreled away for the winter.  Note:  freeze berries and other fruits and veggies individually on a cookie sheet, and THEN bag up. 
  • Learn about, catch, and harvest local edibles in your area.  Things like miner’s lettuce, nettle, dandelion, blackberries, salmonberries, huckleberries, nuts, mushrooms (be careful!), fish and shellfish to name a few.  Hey, can you tell I live in the PNW?

Frugal Food Prep

  • Save onion peels,  veggie trimmings, etc, in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Once you get a full bag, boil it all up and season for your own homemade stock.  Freeze in useable portions.  Note: Go easy on the asparagus.
  • Compost what you can’t utilize and give your garden a treat!
  • Boil seafood shells and season to make a seafood stock.  Yum 🙂
  • Make extra meals and freeze portions for a quick, easy and healthy dinner.  This avoids impulse dinner purchases that you later regret.  Everyone gets tired and busy, so plan ahead for it. Crock pot refried beans are easy and roll up great for homemade frozen burritos. Staples
  • Always have your key staples on hand to make a meal from.  Some of ours are beans, rice, pasta, fish, home canned fruits and veggies, pickles, frozen berries, jarred tomatoes, garlic, oats, aseptic almond milk, flour, eggs, honey, oils and vinegars, hot sauce and herbs and spices.  Many a meal is made from these simple and healthy staples.  Once you define what your staples are, it helps create a budget, and a menu plan if you’re so inclined.
  • Reuse your tea bag from your hot tea in your (cold) water bottle throughout the day.  It not only flavors your water but releases the remaining healing benefits of the tea throughout the day.
  • Make your own condiments ‘cuz store bought ones are gross.
  • Regrow produce from scraps in your kitchen window and in your garden.  Likely candidates are green onion, celery and lettuce, to name a few.

There are many more ways to be frugal in the kitchen.  A more experienced cook could shed a rainbow of light on the topic, I’m sure.  These are just examples from our home, and we are constantly discovering new ways to make up and make do.  Frugal looks differently in a highly urban environment as oppose to a rural one.  Part of the economy of frugality is adaptation.

Do you have any frugal food tips to share?  Add them to the comments below and I may be able to add them to this list!

{This post is the first in the series, “Frugal Made Easy.”  Read Part Two here }

**Shared with:  Fight Back Friday, Fat Tuesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Living Wednesday, Your Green Resource, LHITS DIY Linky, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Frugal Crafty Home, Make Your Own Monday, Adorned From Above Blog Hop, Well Fed Wednesday

 

Sustain, Create and Flow

56 Comments

  1. Save the water from soaking your beans to water your plants, save egg shells to sprinkle in the garden to deter slugs, save lemon rinds in a jar with vinegar to make your own stove top spray cleaner and degreaser.

    • Great tips, Audrey! Thank you so much for sharing! We have a giant stash of egg shells that i use in the garden for slugs. We have a TERRIBLE slug problem. I also add them to the hole I plant my tomato starts in to prevent blossom end rot 🙂

  2. My frugal suggestion. Grow something…anything! Lots of plants are now available in “patio pot” sizes. Rip out a bit of your lawn at a time and replace with food crops if your area allows. If you need to be sneaky, lots of edibles are quite attractive and can pass for ornamentals – think rainbow chard as a flower bed border, replace a shrub with a blueberry plant. Get creative and you will be amazed at how much food you can produce at home. Thanks for sharing this post by the way…lots of great ideas in there.

  3. Thank you for all these great tips! We are in the process of making some changes around our house and this post has given me wonderful ideas and inspiration!
    Can’t wait to see the next post. : )

  4. Great list! I’m a big fan of glass jars, too. One of the main things I do with them is store leftovers in the refrigerator. They seem to keep things fresh longer than plastic, and they’re safe to reheat in the microwave and wash in the dishwasher.

    About plastic bags: I reuse the ones from the produce section but only for produce, from the time of purchase until it is cut. If I cut it in half and want to save one half for later, I put it in a jar or a clean bag. This keeps any pesticide residue or bacteria from the field/truck/store away from food I’ve already washed. I use different plastic bags (ziptops and bags from bread, etc.) in the kitchen, and I do wash those.

    One of my favorite frugal kitchen tricks is making my own frozen vegetables in handy portions when favorite vegs are in season.

  5. I also use those nylon bags as Earring Holders. I tack them up in my bathroom and hang all my danglers from them….I can NEVER find earring stands that I like, anyway AND I think it actually looks cool….I’d insert a pic here if I could but you’ll just have to trust me.

    Awesome post, great tips, thanks for sharing!

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  8. I use many of the same tips you do, and I love glass jars for both pantry storage as well as leftover storage in the fridge. I’m playing with dual-purpose edible landscaping and am having a blast with it. I think it’s helpful to think outside the box with regard to your garden-growing space availability. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. (visiting from Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways)

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas
    http://www.taylormaderanch.com/blog

  9. I have a complete book of ideas i have gathered over the years and growing up in a rural, country place. I go to the store once a month for a major shopping spree. I end up spending around 300.00 and it gives me everything I need to feed my family of 6. and we still have left overs. I plan out meals a week ahead of time, and then when I shop I put it all together when I get home. I store it in re-useable ziplock bags and freeze as whole meals. I aadd what i need and there are a lot that is crock pot meals. I buy the veggies that are on sale, and freeze them along with all my fruits and breads that are homemade and a day old. We save a lot like that. then there are meals that i have to cook that day to freeze, but it is worth it. I always have something to fix everyday, never repeat anything and when surprise company shows up, I just get a meal out that has been already cooked, and frozen, and pop it in the oven,. It makes us three full meals a day and with left overs I usually freeze them as well and at the end of the month i throw it all together to make a goolosh, one of my Granny’s old recipes. I could probably go on forever. I will list where i first got some of the ideas about the frozen 30 day meal plan if I can go back and find it. Ohh and NEVER leave home without your coupons. It is a must…

  10. Congrats on your feature post at Wildcrafting WEdnesdays. Interesting to read through this post. I would say we do most of those ideas and have been able to have a healthier life and save money too.

  11. Great post. My frugal tip is to plant a HUGE garden and grow as much as possible. Starting small, herbs are a great way to go. Purchasing fresh herbs in the grocery is $$$. Thanks!

  12. My MIL taught me that if you wrap all of your fresh vegtebals in papertowels before puting in the fridg they last a lot longer. Cabbage, mushrooms,lettuce,celery etc.

    • Great tip, CJ, Thanks for sharing 🙂 I do that with my herbs! I use a wet cloth and then seal it all up in a bag. I also put my bunch of (store bought) cilantro stems down in a glass cup with water and then a plastic bag over the top. It keeps cilantro fresh for weeks! I guess I should have included that stuff 🙂

  13. Thanks for the post!! My husband and I are planning to leave the day jobs in the next few months, and spend more time doing for ourselves rather than paying others to do for us. One tip I would add to your idea of buying the “end of the season” produce is to ask at the Farmers Market for any over-ripe fruits. They will often sell this at a very reduced price. I cut and freeze, then use for smoothies or cobblers. I especially like it for smoothies. Just throw the frozen chunks in the blender, and because they were so ripe, they have LOTS of flavor!!!

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  15. Thank you for listing your key staples! I am always curious about what people keep on hand and how working moms create meals that are interesting every night, while being budget friendly. These are all great tips and helped me think differently about how I reuse and reduce. There are many things I can do to improve our impact on our environment and community. Thank you!!!

  16. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! 🙂

  17. Bulk DOES sometimes mean Costco. I do the vast bulk of my grocery shopping between Costco and Azure, and I love them both! I also keep an eye on prices. Sometimes, Costco has Azure beat, sometimes, it’s the other way around. At the moment for example, 5# bags of frozen organic peas and green beans are cheaper at Costco than at Azure. Costco also has about the best price anywhere on good quality coconut oil. A 5# block of mozzarella (which gets frozen in pizza-sized portions) is cheaper from Azure.

  18. I’ve found that keeping a dry washcloth spread in the bottom of each produce drawer in the fridge seems to help things rot more slowly better than BluApple or anything else I’ve tried. And if something does get icky, you change out the washcloth (which is one of the ones that you use instead of paper towels, anyway) and wash it

  19. Cooking for two older people can sometimes lead to waste, or worse, too much money spent! We just froze 63 bags of slow cooker meals, which makes about 240 servings. That’s 120 meals for us – 4 months of suppers! The cost is about $1.75 per serving.
    If we add a salad, perhaps a bread, and the occasional side dish (rice, noodles, veggie), we are still spending less than $2.00 per serving.
    I bake bread once a week, which takes a day, but is so much more economical, and better for us, since I wheat in bulk and grind it as needed. I also make pancake and cornbread mixes from scratch. We’ve cut our food budget in half.

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