Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Being Frugal Means to Me...

After a conversation yesterday, I started thinking about how I have changed things to be more frugal around our house.  This really still has me thinking as I am getting ready for my day this morning.  The first answers for me were couponing and budgeting but that wasn't the whole picture because I was trying to figure out what changed in my mind set other than the two basics so I came up with the Top 10 Ideas.

1.  Homemade Bread- I make a loaf of bread a few times a month to make the loaves from the store stretch a little longer.  My husband takes his turkey sandwiches on them and we also use the bread to make garlic bread and paninis.  The wonderful thing is that I already had a bread machine that I wasn't using so I just pulled it out and figured out how to make some yummy breads.  There are tons of recipes out there for those who don't have a bread machine, in case you don't have one but you can always ask a friend (odds are that someone has one in a closet).  In addition, I think that muffins or biscuits with dinner are a great addition.  I don't buy the Pillsbury Grands Rolls that we always used to have unless they are free after sale and coupon because I can make rolls myself (although I have a weak spot for the kind in the can).

2.  Be Green-  Stop grabbing for the plastic bags to put away food in the fridge.  I try to always use the reusable plastic containers so that I am not throwing bags away (or washing them as other family members do). 

Stop grabbing for that paper towel to do things.  I clean the counters and other household stuff with microfiber clothes and a pile of old dish towels stored under the sink with the cleaning supplies.  I dry hands with kitchen dish towels... who cares if I use one or two a day because they don't take up that much more room in the dishwasher.  I also now have a wet laundry basket next to the washer where all the semi-wet towels go so that there aren't stinky wet towels in with the other dirty laundry for a week. 

I clean my son's face and hands after a meal with baby washclothes.  We have a ton and why not use them for other than just bath time! 

Stop using paper plates and napkins.  We have done really well with the plates but I have just added the napkins to my list.  Again, adding a few napkins to the laundry doesn't add a lot more effort or use more energy.

Use reusable bags when you go to the store (and the library).  This makes me feel great about saving the environment but it also gives me $0.05 back per bag at Target and Giant... even worse if you go into DC and have to pay if you use a bag (Sorry Amy).  Of course, my husband is super sad because we don't have extra bags to use for trash can liners and the paper shredder.  A gift for him would be plastic bags so he might want to change this idea :)

I tried natural cleaners for the counters but I didn't like them at all so I haven't gone completely green like this one family that I saw on TV that only have one canning jar of trash for the year!!  If you would like to see the episode on the View, check it out here :)

3.  Inventory- Make sure you know what you have in your house.  How many times have you been at the store and decided to get another bag of rice, box of mac and cheese, or more ground beef. 

I have a list of what is in the freezer- one for meat and one for other items like rice and veggies and one for what is in the pantry.  There is nothing worse then letting good food go bad in your cupboards and buying more. 

Use what you have in your home already to make dinner.  Many people do a challenge to see if they can cook out of their fridge, cupboard, and freezer for a week.  I know that I can plan a month from the items in my house which is my goal so that I can continue to get things that we use at the lowest price to replace the inventory.

4.  Make a list of all of the meals you make-  This seems really easy but it might take a little bit harder then you think after you start.  After I wrote my first sheet, I reorganized it to categories of what protein it included so I could go right to the section that I wanted to make.  I have been trying to add to my recipe list to make sure that I get a bunch of cost effective recipes on my list.  This will also help when you are trying to come up with dinner plans because sometimes it is like writer's block and you can't come up with anything that you ever made and you are just sitting there starving.

5.  Be Creative-  If you have something that you have in your house, figure out how to use it.  There are tons of recipes out there on blogs and the internet. 

I have a cereal that no one in the house liked (that I got for free) so I found a recipe to use it to make muffins (post of that later since I just made those this morning). 

I got tomato paste free so I had to figure out a ton of uses for tomato paste.  I make enchilada sauce, sloppy joes, and still looking for other things that I will make with the rest.  Trying out different recipes is the best way to find new favorites for your family.

6.  Make homemade food- We don't often go out to eat and we don't order out food.  I plan my meals based on the items in the house and try to get a few favorites and special dishes in to make sure that we have great treats for dinner.  I also try to cook most of the meals from scratch and not from boxed meals or frozen meals but they are really great to have around when you are in a rush.

I also try to make breakfast for one morning on the weekend like pancakes, waffles, sausage egg biscuits, and other homemade muffins.  This is a really great treat for me because I love breakfast food and could probably eat that nearly every day.  I am using a bunch of free pancake mix that I got but I hope to make it more from scratch going forward.

Additionally, I make one or two treats a week like cookies or cupcakes so that we have a little something sweet to snack on during the day or after dinner.  It is nice to have something yummy around the house and really makes it feel like there is nothing you are giving up.  I would much rather have a homemade cookie then a store bought one. 

Special hint- Always bring snacks with you when you go out because then you will never be starving and have to eat something out if you don't want to.  It is good for the diet and the budget :)

7.  Use Everything-  Don't let leftovers go to waste.  If you don't think that you are going to eat them or use them, make sure you don't make as much next time.  If you have a little bit of leftovers, put them in the freezer to make freezer soup or some other creation.  During the week, leftovers are lunch the next day.  On the weekends, I make leftover fried rice, leftover paninis, and leftover quesadillas from any leftover items from the week. 

I save all of the bread heals from our loaves or any bread that is getting too crispy in bread bags in the freezer.  I have made them into homemade bread crumbs which saves time, money and waste :)  I am going to try to make stuffing with some of the other bread remains that I have next time and maybe croutons whenever we run out of the store bought one.

When buying fresh veggies, plan to use that fresh veggie in a few meals that week.  If I buy a head of lettuce, I plan for tacos one night, salad for another night, and a chicken wrap to use the lettuce up before it goes bad.  I try to buy smaller quantities of other veggies to make sure that I use them all in the intended meal.

8.  Plan Ahead-  Sounds like a dirty word but it gets more and more easier the more you do it because it is habit and your short cuts make you more time in your schedule.

Figure out a few things that you like to eat that you can easily make from scratch instead of from a box mix and plan ahead.  Get canning jars or plastic bags and mix all the dry ingredients in the container (you can reuse the plastic bags so it doesn't go against my other not using plastic bag rule).  Put a post it note or write on the container what else needs to be added (just like on a box from the store).  Add one egg, 1/3 cup oil, and 1/2 water and bake for 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 

It takes very little effort to put together three dry ingredient pizza crust bags and throw them in the fridge or freezer for when you need to make your next pizza crust.  I have much less to pull out and I am ready to make dinner faster.  How much extra effort does it take if you are making cornbread for dinner and you put the same ingredients in a jar to save for next time.  That means that every other time you have to pull out all the stuff out of the pantry to do your two batches but the other time is super simple because most of the stuff is already in the jar.

Make things and put them in the freezer.  I am a horrible leftover person because I don't like reheating something that I ate yesterday to eat today.  I promise that you can find a few things that aren't going to be like leftovers when you make them and freeze the leftovers.  Brown rice is a great example (and some white rices).  Make a big pot and freeze them in labeled plastic bags pressed flat in the freezer.

When you are cooking dinner on Sunday, make a casserole for Monday's dinner.  Since you are already in the kitchen and making a mess, add an extra pan to the mix.  I make enchiladas and then on Monday, I don't make any mess in the kitchen except the pan that goes in the dishwasher.  It might feel like a little much the first time but I have done it a few times and one extra thing made on the weekend really makes the week start off right or when you have a really busy day planned.  Crock pot is also a big time saver for make ahead dinners (as long as you remember to put the ingredients in the pot).

9.  Read-  I love to read on the subject and learn about how other people do it.  Not everything is the same value to every family so it might take a few different sources to see what tips will work for you.  I know that some books say shop once a month and others say shop the sales; some say use coupons while still others tell you not to.  It is hard to find what is right but you want to make sure you find what is right for your family.

I love looking at different types of blogs.  I have found many that make yummy recipes that my family would love so those are the ones that I go back to.  I bookmark everything that I find in categories on my computer.  I have one for cooking, coupon matchups, and frugal tips.  I have gone back to many of them and found new tips that I can use.  I could spend days and days and not be at the end of the information that the internet has to offer :)

10.  Always thinking-  I am always thinking about new things that I want to try like gardening, canning, and making jelly.  Thinking ahead gives me time to plan and read to figure out if that is something worth my time to try to do. 

Hope this gives you some ideas on how to start being more frugal in very easy steps that don't require a lot of time or money to start.  I hope that you have a frugal day :)


  1. Next time I come over remind me to show you what Pinterest's kind of amazing and is good for all of those bookmarked ideas you have!

  2. I have an account with them but I don't really know too much about it. I know that people rave about it so I guess I will have to look at more stuff on it :)

  3. Hummmm, wonder "who" in the fam washes bags? Just wondering......

    1. I tried to post this earlier but the blog ate my message. Hope that didn't hit too close to home but I was talking about my uncle :) He has washed bags for as long as I remember and I always thought it was really strange but he doesn't want them to go to waste :)


Thank you for visiting my blog today! I really appreciate any input or ideas so add your comment below.