25 Babysteps to Frugality

Heather says:
Not all of these tips are suitable for every person, but they are a springboard to help readers find inspiration to tackle life in frugal ways. Every day we have a choice to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

General cleaning:

  1. Plain white vinegar, water, and elbow grease can replace many commercial cleaning products.
  2. Cut old t-shirts into cleaning rags.
  3. Keep Lone Ranger socks on hand for extra nasty messes. If you would rather throw it away, there’s no loss.
  4. Sweeping costs nothing and prevents damage from tracked in dirt and grit, do it often.
  5. If you can’t ditch your Swiffer, use rags instead of the pads. Shake it outside before tossing it into the laundry.

General Cooking:

  1. Watch your portions. Overeating is money down the toilet.
  2. Buy the spices you use most in bulk. Healthfood stores can be a source, as well as the ethnic aisles in the supermarkets.
  3. Reduce meat consumption by experimenting with meatless meals or by adding beans, rice, or oats to some recipes.
  4. Don’t waste leftovers, either store immediately or turn them into something else like Mustgo Soup.
  5. Check your pantry and fridge often for food that will soon expire or spoil and plan meals around these items.

At the Grocery Store:

  1. Use a list and shop alone.
  2. Check the produce department for a quick sale bin. Many recipes do not need picture perfect vegetables. Freckled bananas taste better in oatmeal or banana bread.
  3. If you are disciplined, meat approaching its sell by date is often reduced, freeze or cook it immediately for big savings. Don’t buy it if you know you can’t use it quickly.
  4. Grocery stores aren’t always the best source for some items. Check the price of milk at drug stores and gas stations, some dry staples can be found at bargain stores such as Big Lots for significant savings.
  5. Check your receipt and don’t be afraid to mention errors, just be polite.

Entertainment:

  1. Use the library for books, DVDs, and music.
  2. Swap books and movies with friends.
  3. One word: POTLUCK  for poker nights, girls nights IN, game nights, etc
  4. Learn to cook, this skill translates into savings, enjoyment and an ability to create gifts for others at minimal cost.
  5. For low cost entertainment try supporting your local highschool sports and theater. Who knows, someday you may get to say “I saw them when.”

Common Sense Energy Conservation, because sometimes we all need a quick reminder, best of all these ideas are all green:

  1. Turn off lights that aren’t in use.
  2. Turn off the tap when brushing teeth.
  3. Take shorter showers. -Turn off the water while soaping your body, washing your hair, and shaving. Turn on to rinse-
  4. Put on a sweater or use a ceiling or table fan before adjusting the thermostat.
  5. Walk around your home and check for appliances that use energy even when off. Unplug these items or use a power strip.

Can you add to the list?





38 Comments

  1. Rainey on August 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Another major tip I’m surprised to not find here: Walk or bike when possible. I live walking distance to a grocery store and several of my places of work. While my car gets great gas mileage and I was getting by very well on $5/week on gas most weeks, every penny counts! I’ve already cut my gas usage to about #5 every week and half. Not to mention the grocery store that’s walking distance(there are a total of 3 in town) has a $1 aisle with most of the staples and that’s where I do a lot of shopping. They also have great sales. 2 large bottles of vegetable oil for a little more than the cost of one at walmart! Even though they’re the most expensive store for fresh foods(dairy, meat, and produce) they have enough sales and cheap things on any given day that I can still spend as much as I would at walmart and ultimately get more. They also have the best produce in town, but when it’s in season it’s cheaper than walmart I’ve found.

  2. anonymous on August 20, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I fumbled upon this site while trying to find out re washing walls! I must say I wish if MyScienceWins had nothing other than a sarcastic, negative and downright rude remark to make, he would refrain from saying anything at all.

  3. MyScienceWins on August 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Again, saving power is good, and yes you individually save power you are saving money.  But have you ever thought about what would happen if everyone followed this advice?  Do you really think that the “ONE” power company that most people have to choose from is going to stand for a drop in profits?  Answer:  HELL NO!  Their number one responsibility, by law, is to their share holders.  They will just raise the cost of power.  So, if we are going to come up with such long winded tips, can we please ask, “To what extent would this be viable?”  Just my two cents…

    • deneicer1 on August 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

       @MyScienceWins You intend to not save money because you think the power company will just charge you more.  

  4. MyScienceWins on August 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Couponning is great, but if everyone did it, the stores would just eliminate them or greatly reduce their value.  Tips like this are not sustainable if everyone gets on board.

    • deneicer1 on August 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

       @MyScienceWins As long as companies have been willing to discount their products by issuing coupons only about 8% of the printed coupons have ever been redeemed.

  5. MyScienceWins on August 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Oh very good tip.  Noooo one has ever thought of buying in bulk to save money.

    • deneicer1 on August 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      You would be surprised at what some people have never been taught to do.

  6. MyScienceWins on August 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Clearly, if everyone followed your last tip, there would not be enough magazines to go around.  Did you not think of that?  Maybe we should come up with tips that will help everyone…

    • deneicer1 on August 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      I expect people to be smart.  Most people know when a tip would apply to them and when it wouldn’t.

  7. MyScienceWins on August 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I guess if you completely lack any discipline, then this is a good tip.

    • deneicer1 on August 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

       @MyScienceWins Clearly many, many of us lack discipline.  Being hungry is much more than just a lack of discipline.  The many chemical and physiological changes that occur in the brain and the body due to low blood sugar most certainly could cause the “lack of discipline” that you so kindly pointed out to us all.

  8. Ophelia Lucine on August 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I’ve followed this blog for almost two years and now that I’ve officially started college and moved out (from Northern California all the way to Southern), I’m so glad I did. I’m looking back at your articles for tips and it’s amusing to me how much of this I really took to heart when I first read it! Most of your tips were already embedded in me when I first started shopping. I also have your book for quick reference, which has helped a lot as well. 
    I’m looking forward to studying your blog again as an adult and a culinary student and seeing what I can do with it. 

  9. deneicer1 on September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I don’t buy magazines. I find it to be such a waste when they are piled up everywhere because I haven’t had time to read them…and I PAID for them! I love magazines, by the way; and I find that I can collect a few from my friend who works in the healthcare field. When her office cleans out the old magazines then I stock up! This way I don’t feel guilty about wasting money. I can read them when I have a chance AND I didn’t have to pay for them! (Did I mention that I hate to buy something that sits around unused?) I recycle them when I am done by giving them to another friend or tossing them in the recycle bin.

    If you don’t have a friend in the health care field (like I do) I would bet that your doctor, dentist, etc. would be happy for you to clean out their old magazines on occasion!

  10. bernie.zeesman on September 13, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Ah but Nancy my dear – Costco is the ultimate place to try anything because they will take anything back for any reason!

  11. alice.dick on July 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    @Nancy “Never buy something in bulk until I try it first” – Oh, hear, hear. I once bought those Star-Kist tuna lunch packs in bulk at CostCo – they were disgusting and I wound up giving several away to our office secretaries. I never should have bought them.

    • Je' on March 6, 2017 at 2:48 am

      Some things are just common scense.

      Of course if you’ve never tried it before, don’t buy it in bulk.

      There are many things that most people generally use on a regular basis that, yes, will save the consumer a great deal when buying in bulk. Such things as bath soap, toilet paper, laundry soap, dish soap, trash bags, shampoo & conditioner. These are just a few items that I can think of that generally every household uses & purchases on a regular basis. Not to mention items that are necessary, per say, if you have a baby in the home, such as diapers [cloth or disposable], wipes [or baby washcloths], etc.

      There are a variety of items that when bought in bulk can save the consumer a great deal of money. Especially over time.

      Those items alone would save you tons of money, even if you choose not to buy your food in bulk.

      Just saying!

  12. Eliza on May 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    i believe in reusing sandwich bas, gallon & quart zip bags__I wash then out and turn them inside out to dry____I also disguise leftovers in new meals by cutting up meat and redressing it with a different sauce. One night we might have oven baked herb chicken and then a couple nights later have it a barbeque form.

  13. HeatherSolos on April 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    As a severely introverted person -I'm working on it- if it isn't google-able I probably haven't seen it. So that's great advice for those of us who aren't sure who to ask. Thank you!

  14. Kika on April 16, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I don't know if this is relevant everywhere but where I live, in central Alberta (where food is fairly expensive), it is often less expensive for me to buy organic grains in bulk through a buying coop than non organic through the local grocery store or walmart. Actually not just grains but many foods. It seems that people with lower budgets might sometimes assume they could never afford big bags of organic rice, oats, spelt, etc., but they should consider checking into it.

    • HeatherSolos on April 17, 2011 at 7:42 am

      Kika, that is definitely a good tip. How did you find the coop? Many times people just don't know they exist.

  15. Susie Michelle on October 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    These are great tips – especially the one about watching portion sizes, and remembering to go to the store alone. I buy so much more when my kids are with me!

    I love how the internet has made it so much easier to find grocery coupons. As a kid, I remember my mom clipping coupons and even filing them according to category and expiration date. I remember thinking that I was never going to take the time to do that. Now, we can just go online and print just the grocery coupons we want – so we don't end up buying items that no one in our house wanted in the first place. And savings cards make things easy, too.

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  18. Daniel on March 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I’d add to your point about how “grocery stores aren’t always the best source for some items.”

    Certain expensive necessaries like spices are preposterously overpriced in the grocery store because distribution of spices is controlled by just a few companies. You can save a lot of money on spices by shopping at local ethnic specialty food stores in your community. You might be shocked at the much lower prices for spices, and even better you’ll be helping a local entrepreneur.

    This was an extremely useful post!

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

    • Roy T on July 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Dan,

      I recently tried to buy some Indian foods and spices online. It turned out the best source I could find was an ethnic store. Their buying method was to get the family back home in India to buy up their supplies for them and ship them by courier. I would guess that is a common practice among ethnic stores, thus cutting out the major distributors and keeping their own costs very competitive. An added bonus to that is that the produce is more likely to be genuine and good quality.

  19. Roxanne on March 30, 2009 at 10:34 am

    There are some wonderful tips there. We use lots of natural, low-cost household items to do our cleaning. It works great, saves money, and eliminates harmful chemicals from our home.

    Love the tip about shopping with a list ALONE. It’s amazing how much additional “stuff” gets added to the grocery bill when you have three or four people tossing additional items into the grocery cart.

  20. Diaper Cakes Becca on March 28, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    We signed up for the TIME OF DAY plan with our electric company. In the winter….it is more expensive to use power from 5am to 9am and 5pm to 9pm. IN the summer it is more expensive to use power from 9am to 5pm (this is all DURING THE WEEK).

    We save A LOT of money on this plan. Dishwasher, vacuum, washer and dryer NEVER get used during the expensive times…..and we try HARD to minimize oven use during this time, too!

    We open the windows (at least two on opposites sides of the house, to create a cross breeze) at night on the cool nights and then close them first thing in the morning (it gets hot quick during the days) to try and keep the house cool as long as possible. We utilize ceiling fans and try to keep the thermostat turned down a few degrees when we aren’t home……

    We are getting ready to enter expensive time for electricity in Phoenix and we are dreading it. I’m hoping this year we will be able to resist the temptation to durn down the thermostat more than last year. I have put up some sunblocker curtains that I am hoping, when drawn, will significantly reduce the sunlight coming in during the afternoon hours…..we shall see!

  21. caryn verell on March 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    i try to save all of my trips to town for one day….then i travel out to the stop that is the farthest away from home, and work my way back to the homestead. this has saved me alot of time as well as gas. and if i need to fill up the tank while i am out i try to make that my last stop. if one or more of the stops is for grocery items i always make sure that if have some kind of container, box, or canvas bags with me including a small cooler type container.

  22. Tiffany @ Snapshots of Life on March 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Check to see if any of your local grocery stores do price matching. This can allow you to get the deals from several different stores in only one stop. It is probably a good idea to go when they are not too busy as it takes a little longer to check out. This is a good way to stock up on items. I did this yesterday and saved about $20.

  23. Nancy on March 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Before I make a grocery list, I make a menu. The menu forms the basis for my list. Having a menu that covers the next week or two allows me to figure out what I really need, not just keep my pantry full. This also helps keep me from calling up for pizza or going out to eat, because I have a plan for dinner and I have all the ingredients I need. I am also trying to only shop once a week.
    Another rule of thumb I have is to NEVER buy something in bulk at a warehouse store unless I try it first. This has saved me from a number of expensive mistakes.

  24. Heather on March 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Thatbobbiegirl,
    Nice find! I do love checking the clearance area at Target, too. You never know what you’ll find. I’ve also learned that just a taste of something really good can be more satisfying than a larger portion of something mediocre.

  25. thatbobbiegirl on March 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    During these economic times, you might figure you should just steer clear of areas in the grocery store like the gourmet cheeses, but it ain’t necessarily so. Since fewer people are buying these items, more of them end up staying around until the “sell by” date — and then they get marked down drastically.

    Case in point: at Kennies’ in Gettysburg, on a day I hadn’t even planned to go shopping, but went in just because I was right there, I got some imported havarti that normally sells for $7.99 an 8oz package — for NINETY NINE CENTS. I bought five. And it’s gooooood stuff. Also got some feta crumbles for 99 cents – not such a drastic markdown, but still a way to afford something special that doesn’t normally fit the budget.

  26. Heather on March 28, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Joyce, I absolutely agree! Everything looks much better when your stomach is rumbling.

    Rebecca,
    We ought to do that, but haven’t gotten around to it. Right now, I just try to keep the AC off as long as humanly possible. My goal is to make it until May. (I live in South Carolina and it gets warm early.)

    Melissa,
    That is brilliant. I use our upstairs shower and run the fan to clear the steam. I hate that trip back up the stairs and often get distracted. I’m going to look around for one.

    Dani,
    Coupons are definitely great in some circumstances. I have a hard time recommending them since we don’t use many of the products. The good thing is, there is no wrong way to approach frugality (well except when people try to scam or consistently make choices that have short term savings but long term costs).

  27. dani on March 27, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    As for the grocery store: coupons are your best friend! If you know you use a lot of something (in my house, it’s cheerios) buy it when it’s on sale. We honestly have like 8-10 boxes at a time, but we have never paid full price. Paper products are also another thing we buy on sale, and then store them until needed (you should see our storage room sometimes, it’s crazy).

    Always check prices vs. size. Sometimes the bigger jar is cheaper, sometimes not. Store brands are also great, and it’s usually the same thing. Depending on the grocery store, they run sales where if you spend so much you get a percentage off. When we get 20% off we stock up on the expensive stuff. We regularly save $20-$100 on groceries, it just takes a little more time!

  28. Melissa on March 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I installed a timed switch for our bathroom fan. My husband would turn it on and forget about it, and it would be pumping our cool air outside for hours, and make the a/c come on more often (south texas!), not to mention wasting all that electricity just by running. Now he can select it to run for 10 – 60 minutes and it automatically shuts off.

  29. Rebecca on March 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Under energy savings, I have to say that getting a programmable thermostat has saved us money. You can find them for less than $50 (ours was around $30) and average a savings of $100/year. We have our set to turn the temperature down a few degrees every 2 hours in the evening to encourage us to go to bed.

  30. Joyce on March 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    At the top of the list for saving at the grocery store. Do Not Grocery Shop on an empty stomach. If you’re not hungry, you’ll make fewer impulse purchases. It will be easier to ignore all the expensive goodies they’re trying to make you buy.

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