Should You Go Whole Hog?

Heather says:

With the state of the economy providing plenty of fodder for the evening news frugality is getting a lot of attention.  CNN recently did a story on The Economides: America’s Cheapest Family.

For those looking to pinch a few pennies and increase their savings, is jumping feet first into a completely frugal lifestyle best?  How well would, “Hey honey, I’m going to cook everything from scratch, hang all my clothes out to dry, reuse gray water in my garden, raise sheep to mow my lawn,  and use their wool to knit all our clothes” go over in your house? Also, would your zoning laws even allow the last few?  I know there are those who can and do  manage extremely frugal lifestyles, but the reality of our pampered culture is many may not adjust well to the workload that accompanies such an endeavor.

What good is planning to make everything from scratch if thirty pounds of whole wheat flour go rancid in the pantry while the vegetables from the CSA slowly liquefy in the fridge?  What good are fifty cans of tuna bought for pennies if no one will eat it?

What if instead forcing yourself and possibly dragging reluctant family members along for the ride small, quiet changes were made?  Rather than saying, “That’s it! No more restaurants ever!” You suggest, “Let’s have a pizza night, you can choose the toppings.” Instead of going out for breakfast, learn to make pancakes at home.  Mr. Heather decided some time ago that he was going to master pancakes, now one lazy morning a week* we hang out in our pjs, drink our coffee, and indulge in cakey goodness.  Small traditions and practices can replace expensive habits without a feeling of deprivation if they are approached in a positive manner.

Like Meredith, do you embrace cheerful frugality or do you consider the practice just one more thing that must be done to survive?

*For those keeping count, pancakes and pizza are our two consistent meals.  With nineteen other meals to plan for, I can manage these two culinary ruts.


  1. Mortgage Bl0gger on June 5, 2008 at 2:56 am

    I agree that America needs to become more frugal. Everybody seems to have an “How can I get what I want RIGHT NOW” attitude, and the common answer to that question is by getting a new loan, or line of credit. Americans simply overextend themselves further and further everyday.

  2. JayMonster on April 6, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    OK, I think everybody covered the “ease into frugal”, so let me come from somewhere else, Frugal can also be FUN.

    We used to go out to IHOP fairly often for breakfast because my wife liked it and the daughter thought it much cooler than eating home.

    Until I bought a Mickey Mouse Waffle Iron. Now I make Mickey Mouse Pancakes, cut fresh strawberries into “flowers” to garnish the plate, and put a fresh orange juice slice on the side of the juice cup. It looks fun and festive, everybody likes it, and even with my decorations, it costs for about three months what a single trip to the restaurant would cost.

  3. Margaret on April 5, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I totally agree about baby steps! My 2 goals for the year: start composting this summer and then this fall, switch from paper tissues to handkerchiefs (we already use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper).
    My family is the kind of family that supports the CSA in theory, but we are able to walk 2 blocks to a farmer’s market so we do that instead. We are supporting the local farmers, getting gorgeous produce, BUT we are choosing what we want from the in-season offerings (and also, many CSAs are organic so they don’t have orchard fruits or sweet corn – I just can’t give up those summer favorites!).

  4. Susie on April 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I think it is easy if you embrace it in baby steps. We switched from a 2 income family to a 1 income family (and sadly, with the way bills are going up, we are going back to me working part time). Instead of say, picking up a package of cookies, I’ll bake them on the weekend. Brewing that cup of coffee instead of picking it up at the corner coffee shop. Or instead of renting movies, I check them out at the library. Finally, instead of having a huge cell phone bill for 2 phones that we don’t use, we switched to 1 pre-paid phone used for emergencies. These are just a few examples of baby steps we’ve made .

    I think it is a matter of determining what what your “needs” and “wants” are first. Then, learning to live with that “want” in an inexpensive manner or learning to live without it. Once you get to that level, then I think you can truly embrace frugality cheerfully because you are not bogged down by a “perceived need or want” in addition to a “real need”.

  5. Elizabeth on April 5, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I completely agree. Babysteps are much easier to maintain and if you take enough steps it really adds up. We’ve really been focusing on NOT eating out, and finding out where is really the cheapest place to shop. That has saved us the most money, and it’s a habit I wanted to establish because we eat better at home.

    I would love to join a CSA, though I don’t necessarily think it would save money. Though if I chose to eat at home and enjoy the produce from the CSA instead of eating out, that would save $$. I would also love to buy meat directly from a farmer, also for quality not price.

  6. Bramble on April 5, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Heather- try Gary’s organic. He delivers, thus saving you some green on gas.
    As for the jump into frugal living hubby’d probably be all for it on the condition that 1. he doesnt have to care for the sheep and 2. he doesn’t have to give up his laptop.
    I read a fantastic article a while back about a family that decided to buy an old farmhouse and live 1800’s style for a year. I’ve always thought it would be fun but agree there’s no point if the whole fam doesn’t agree.
    As for cooking from scratch I have to say it hasn’t been that bad, altho we did slip and go out to eat twice this week. Some habits die hard.

  7. Gwen on April 5, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Frugal is fun. It can start as simply as mass-producing and freezing a couple loaves of PBJ sandwiches twice a month for lunches, thus conquering two problems: the cash drain from daily fast food or restaurant lunches, and the morning rush where I have barely enough awareness and coordination to dress myself, let alone prepare food for the next meal. It’s a slightly monotonous lunch, but so easy to prepare in the morning (wipe out lunch box, throw in a blue ice and two cans of soda or juice, a yogurt, a sandwich and a treat) that it’s hardly an effort at all. It’s one less thing to think about, and it’s easily $100 a month extra to put towards more worthwhile things like paying off mortgages.

    Our adjustable rate mortgage unlocked at the beginning of the year, and we were so far ahead because we’ve been paying a little extra every month that the monthly payment is now less than half what it was when we originally signed the loan. In seven years we have already paid off two thirds of our loan. We are on track to own our second house free and clear in another three years, while the first one which we still own breaks even for us as a rental. As soon as house #2 is paid for, we can work on paying off house #3, also a rental.

    Even small frugalities can help free up cash for more worthwhile things, meaning that we can help support charities that are meaningful for us, we can stay up to date on our bills and credit cards, and we have enough in the bank to take care of life’s everyday emergencies (car trouble, home repairs, medical bills beyond what the insurance pays, etc.)

  8. Heather on April 5, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I’m sorry if I was unclear. I believe CSAs are fantastic. They are, however, a huge commitment to someone who is unused to cooking vegetables that don’t come pre-cut, washed, and ready to zap in the microwave.

    My point was not that any of the choices were bad, but that if they were approached in an overzealous manner it may become another unnecessary expense.

    The nearest CSA to my home is unfortunately just far enough that it would cost too much in gas for me to participate. I am jealous of those who live on the other side of town and can fit it into their routines.

    As it is, we visit the farm for the U-pick seasons and preserve the produce for our own consumption throughout the year. I am all for utilizing these resources. What I am not for is someone getting a bee in their bonnet and going crazy only to experience failure and shun the idea and practice of frugality in its entirety.

  9. N. & J. on April 5, 2008 at 10:26 am

    My fiance and I are trying to make small changes that can be accomplished in an apartment and maybe as we go along we will make larger changes. For now we line dry out clothes, make our own Sunday breakfasts, eat out once in a blue moon, get our milk from a local dairy and we are starting a small container garden to supplement our grocery store organic vegetable purchases.

  10. a CSA farm on April 5, 2008 at 9:48 am

    We run a CSA and I have to say you are a bit off on your assumption that the food is wasted. CSA’s provide your family with fresher food. It helps support local farmers, and revives the local economy. At the peak of summer months, excess produce can be canned or frozen (which anyone can do with out any equipment) for the fall and winter.

    CSA’s are not a choice of frugality, but rather a choice for health, a choice to support small farms, and a choice to eat fresher food produced locally.

  11. Mr. Beer N. Hockey on April 4, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Pizza and pancakes! Do it!

  12. Mrs. Micah on April 4, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I think with a family it’s definitely best to ease in. A single person or a couple can get really excited and fired up and may be able to hold that passion. Once you add kids, it’s a bit harder.

    But even for a single person, I think there should be a certain amount of wiggle room. You have to learn what kind of frugality is best for you.

  13. jessica on April 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    That’s a really good article about that family.
    We’re working on being more frugal, but it’s just taking quite a bit more discipline and hard work than i am used to. We’re doing baby steps, trying to get in the habit of becoming frugal people.
    i am also trying to only grocery shop twice a month, but these pregnancy cravings unfortunately sometimes have me running there a bit more often:)