Five Frugal Things

by Katy on August 7, 2023 · 40 comments

  1. I pulled out my master packing list that I created after our June trip to Nebraska. My goal is to cut down on reinvention of the wheel, so I can put in the work once and keep a template on hand for future travel. The idea  is to have everything I need and nothing extra, and for the love of Pete, to not buy things I already have at home!

    Many of you have shared that you’ve created similar lists, either as spreadsheets or through your notes apps. I’m old school, so I printed out a half dozen sheets and slipped them into a plastic sleeve to keep inside my suitcase. My week was much more relaxed as I wasn’t madly assembling a packing list, just adding a thing or two that were specific to this trip.

  2. An old friend invited me over for brunch, which was absolute perfection. The food was delicious, (sausages, eggs, olive toast and fruit bowls) and the pace was unhurried, which rarely happens in a restaurant setting. We were able to spend three full hours catching up on each other’s lives and it was priceless.

  3. I stopped by Goodwill in search of an extra decent T-shirt or two. I didn’t find one, but I did score a Land’s End chenille sweater that’s an exact match of the one I wear all day every day in winter. (Although in a different color.) Not actually a welcome garment for August in NYC, but the rich get their sweaters in the winter and apparently I get mine in the summer.

    I’d set up an eBay alert for any time someone listed this specific sweater a couple years ago, but didn’t get any notifications. Everything that’s ever been manufactured will eventually show up in a thrift store.

  4. • I brought a bouquet of backyard hydrangeas to my friend’s house.
    • I stocked up on semi-healthy Trader Joe’s food for our long travel day.
    • I picked up a $7.50 pair of replacement rear taillight bulbs for my son’s car. He only needed one, but now he’s set for the future. My husband then showed him how to replace the bulb on his own.

  5. I didn’t forage a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Wolk-Stanley August 7, 2023 at 5:14 am

Can’t wait to see you! You do know that you can borrow anything in the unlikely event that you forgot something! I can’t wait to show you my garbage-picked/rescued free tomato plants and petunias


A. Marie August 7, 2023 at 7:46 am

Jessica, I’m glad to see that you’re providing Katy with backup in the packing department. My JASNA BFF in Manhattan and I are on similar terms. I’ve even started leaving a few items of clothing at her place so I don’t have to pack the whole shebang when I visit.


Jill A August 7, 2023 at 5:20 am

1. I picked up a book club book at the library instead of purchasing it. While I was there I also checked out the Yellowstone Season 5 DVD since I don’t have that particular streaming service.
2. I paid for some electrical work with a check instead of a credit card to avoid their 3% credit card fee.
3. I gave my dog a bath at home instead of paying the $10 for the very nice dog bath at the dog park.
4. My middle daughter gifted me with an enormous amount of curried chicken which made several meals for the youngest daughter and I. I froze half for later.
My oldest daughter gifted me with a case of body wash samples which I’ll use as hand soap and my youngest with facial lotions and shampoos for her eczema. The place where she works was swimming in samples.
5. I have lost some weight so I’m able to fit into more of my clothes.


Kathy G August 7, 2023 at 5:27 am

I’ve lost track of the times I went into a thrift store for something specific, didn’t find it, but left with something else that was exactly what I needed.


MB in MN August 7, 2023 at 6:18 am

1. Enjoyed a free meal at our apartment’s National Night Out event.

2. Concocted a side dish to use up things that needed using up: avocado, tomato, black beans, and lemon juice, to which I added olive oil, seasoning salt and pepper.

3. Husband negotiated a better renewal price for Sirius radio. Renewal offer was $25/month and when my husband said he would have to cancel at that price, they immediately offered $8/month, just $2 more than last year. He loves to negotiate but this one was too easy.

4. Snagged a few items and offered up things on Buy Nothing. Latest acquisitions were a weird-themed pasta shape (who cares, pasta is pasta) and hot dog buns. I take one bun a day out of the freezer, open it up, put it in the toaster oven and enjoy it as toast topped with peanut butter. My Buy Nothing group is fabulous, a true community.

5. Friend gave my dog a barely used harness.


Teri August 7, 2023 at 11:55 am

Why is it that hot dog buns taste better than regular bread?


Ruby August 7, 2023 at 6:42 am

An unhurried meal out with a friend is blissful!

1. We did not spend $800 to replace the decorative wood shutters on our house. That was the average price for new ones in the custom size required that we found through several sources. After a search through a salvage lumber store and Habitat ReStore for possible affordable replacements for the rotting originals, my husband decided to see how the house looks without them. The answer was much better, with its clean lines and wide windows standing out now.
2. My son and I power-washed the house after the shutter removal and scrubbed off stray paint on the bricks from the old shutters with a wire brush. Saved untold amounts of money over hiring that nasty chore out.
3. While at the ReStore, I found an unopened large roll of self adhesive grasscloth wallpaper to buy. The sole clerk was super busy and told me to just take it for free. Sweet!
4. My husband made a new access door for our attic and painted it with some Oops! paint from the hardware store.
5. Our house did not have a house number plaque. Although the number is on the mailbox, our address is often confused with that of a house around the corner. I bought a pack of galvanized metal numbers and a wood base at Dollar Tree to create a plaque. Painted it with leftover black and copper spray paint from another project and made a hanger from a Coke can tab. It looks really nice.
Bonus: Rack dried a bunch of laundry this weekend. Still picking lits of tomatoes from the container garden.


Christina August 7, 2023 at 6:55 am

It was a quiet week with a lot of working and staying home in these awfully high heat indexes.

-Used my Target Circle 20% off teacher coupon on groceries and household goods coupled with other coupons for a great discount.
-Used gray water to water all of my plants
-Bartered some super old technology with a friend in exchange for his labor fixing my door, and putting together my sons bookshelf.
-Dryer seems to be on the fritz. My brother brought one he had in storage and switched them out for me.
-Baked some blueberry muffins, french toast, and frittata muffins with the Just Egg product we were gifted before expiration.


Teri August 7, 2023 at 12:00 pm

Could you tell me where you got your 20% off teacher coupon?


Jen in Santa Cruz August 7, 2023 at 7:37 am

If only someone had taken a photo of you the moment you saw that sweater!! Treasure found.


kathy August 7, 2023 at 7:37 am

1. Saw Oppenheimer at the senior matinee price. Did not buy any snacks at movie
2. Ate all 3 meals at home this past week
3. Finally got library card (we moved 18 months ago). Checked out a book from a new to me author
4. Son updated our shower to include a hand held so I can bath the dogs without lifting them in/out of tub. Well worth the $350
5. Got my free hallmark card to send to a friend who recently lost her husband


Christine August 7, 2023 at 7:54 am

Nice you got to spend some time with an old friend and not feel rushed.
I have to mention we traveled with another couple earlier this year on a six day vacation to an island. We were going home afterwards; they were going on to a weeklong cruise. We had one suitcase and a train case between DH and me. They had eight suitcases for themselves! One suitcase was full of scuba diving equipment and the rest was their clothing and whatever. I don’t consider us minimalists, but I couldn’t help noticing the difference. 1. A friend lent me a book by Melinda Metz “Crazy Like a Fox”. It’s not the first in a series which I like to read in order so I will order the first one from the library.
2. I’m having a medical procedure done tomorrow and know I won’t feel like cooking after so I’m making double the amount of supper tonight. Then we can just heat and eat the leftovers.
3. My plastic iced tea pot which fits into the actual iced tea maker sprung a small leak in its base yesterday. After first thinking I couldn’t use it again, I decided to make the iced tea using a dish cloth wrapped around it to soak up any leakage which was only a small amount and then pouring it into a Salvation Army Store purchased pitcher to store in the refrigerator.
4. Awaiting my bill from the plumber for work done after the pipe burst in an inside wall. I’m not happy about the pipe but I’m a little more at ease knowing we can cover it with our emergency fund.
5. Nature is watering my outdoor plants again with rain here in New England and more expected tonight. DH and I were laughing about our lawn never looking so good in August before. We pay for town water, so we never water the lawn and usually by this time of year it resembles a dried out hayfield.


Becky August 7, 2023 at 3:40 pm

My goodness that’s a LOT of luggage! My summer travel packing trick-a pack of foldable hangers and a travel bottle of liquid detergent! No one’s going to care if they see me in the same outfit twice, and I hand wash much of my summer clothes anyhow.


Julie Hamann August 7, 2023 at 8:09 am

1. Using up leftovers in the refrigerator and freezer as part of my weekly meal planning.
2. Going through stacks of mass market paperback books that I haven’t read in years and taking them to the local used bookstore. Got $16 in cash for them.
3. It’s Bulk and Brush time in our neighborhood where the city picks up items left at the curb at no extra charge. They do this twice a year. I’ve been walking the neighborhood and rescuing items that can be donated instead of going to the landfill.
4. We also have a plastic recycling program being directed by my local councilman. It takes all the plastic that is not recyclable per the city and the plastic is then shipped to a manufacturer that grinds up the plastic and turns it into building blocks and outdoor furniture. I’ve been picking up the plastic items left at the curb in the neighborhood that is not recyclable and taking it to the collection point for the new program.
5. Still working for a living instead of retiring. Using the extra money to build up my savings account and get needed health appointments taken care of while I still have employer provided health insurance.


Christine August 7, 2023 at 10:15 am

I love your #4. Good for you for taking the plastic the city won’t recycle and seeing that it gets to a place where it will be. I applaud you!


A. Marie August 7, 2023 at 8:10 am

FFT, Crap Out of the House and Garage, Money and Tax Breaks In Edition:

(1) A young woman who has recently opened a secondhand-housewares store in a nearby suburb, and who stopped by our street-wide garage sale back in June (at my invitation; I’d read an article about her in the local paper) and bought big from a lot of us, bought another $75 worth of stuff from me on Saturday. This included five of the eight baskets I mentioned in the latest Five Tiny FT (I’m keeping the other three), as well as some other not-so-random decluttering. We had a pleasant chat, and I took a good look around the shop to see what other kinds of things I might be able to find for her. (She has a husband, a 4-year-old, and a day job in addition to the shop, so she says she can’t hit up thrift stores and garage sales as often as she’d like. Hey, I can help with that. Even Wonder Woman needs help sometimes.)

(2) And on Sunday, two pleasant young folks from the local Cat Coalition came and collected two SUVs’ worth of other stuff that I wasn’t able to sell at our garage sale (small furniture and the like) for the CC’s upcoming yard sale. Nice tax deduction there, since the CC is a 501(3)c.

(3) In other news, I visited a garden/art event in a neighborhood just south of our local party-school university. In addition to acquiring a lot of literature about native plants and planting for beneficial insects, I was given a free swamp milkweed plant. It seems that swamp milkweed is what monarchs prefer for egg-laying and pupating, though they and many others will nectar on the common milkweed I’ve got now. Who knew?

(4) I also got luckier than I have in months on Reduced for Quick Sale meats at Wegmans: two whole kosher chickens, two packages of lamb shanks, and a package of turkey Italian sausages.

(5) Finally, the friend who trims my hedges came by not only to trim the hedges, but to collect his share of my 1/4 steer and two of DH’s ladders that he’s buying from me. As soon as one more set of friends has had a chance to go through DH’s remaining tools, I’ll be calling the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to arrange a pickup on the rest.


Heidi Louise August 7, 2023 at 9:16 am

Presuming humans drove the SUVs– I found the name of the organization “Cat Coalition” to open up all sorts of creative possibilities about cats that do good works for cats in need and the like, while wearing breast protectors and ankle guards and sleek helmets.
Go you for clearing stuff out of the house and garage! A bittersweet relief.


A. Marie August 7, 2023 at 9:56 am

Dang, Heidi Louise, now you’ve got me thinking of an entire cartoon series about a sort of feline do-good Roman Legion. I’m not a good enough artist to do one myself, but I’d bet there’s something like this out there somewhere.


Kathy Sell August 7, 2023 at 2:07 pm

I approve of a feline do-good movement. Who are the antagonists? Dogs, rats, purveyors of illegal catnip? The ideas keep coming. I would read such a strip. Or maybe an anime or other comic book. Think of the subsidiary merchandise…stuffed animals, costumes, et al.


Ruby August 7, 2023 at 10:22 am

A. Marie, how did the garage sale turn out?


A. Marie August 7, 2023 at 10:29 am

Ruby, I wasn’t able to participate in the second day of the garage sale, since DH took his sharp turn for the worse late that Saturday night, and he died that Sunday afternoon–so of course I couldn’t do the Sunday. (Life and death take priority, always.)

But a couple of friends who had been meaning to stop by that Sunday for tools did come by a week or so later, and I was of course very glad to donate to the Cat Coalition.


Ruby August 7, 2023 at 11:25 am

Oh, gosh, I had not realized the sale and your DH’s passing had occurred on the same weekend. Was just wondering because you had so much to donate afterward.

My last yard sale was very poorly attended, although I’d done everything right to publicize it and set it up. They seem to just not be a thing here anymore.


Mati August 21, 2023 at 3:16 am

I think so many people decluttered heavily during the pandemic, and were simultaneously introduced to Buy Nothing, that some people have new habits. Add the heat and air quality issues in some areas of the country and it’s not suprising there are fewer people yard saling.

Mati August 21, 2023 at 3:20 am

Gaah! A typo I can’t edit out!

Christine August 7, 2023 at 10:22 am

Well, I had no idea there was such a thing as swamp milkweed! Seeing as how I live close to a swamp (I adore it…it’s teaming with life) now I’m hoping there is swamp milkweed growing there. I will also let my friend and neighbor who incubates Monarch Butterflys know about it.


Ecoteri August 7, 2023 at 2:55 pm

I love the way your generous mind works, @A. Marie – willing to help out that young woman while entertaining yourself in thrift stores sounds like a multi=level win-win-win!
As for the rest, well, Your particular post has brought me much joy. Cats! Butterflies(and weeds) ! Cheap meats! Emptying the garage!!


Ashley Bananas August 7, 2023 at 8:24 am

1. I earned $354 doing Door Dash this past week. Yay!
2. A neighbor gave us extra potatoes and onions she had.
3. I was able to get four bags of undercover snacks for free through rebates on their website. I was also able to earn more money from ibotta for shopping for essentials.
4. My son and I did some cooking last night. We made tacos for him and mini taco boats for me. They were wonderful and now I have some leftovers too.
5. I gave away about three bags worth clothes this weekend to a neighbor. A different neighbor gave me one bag in my size.

It was a good week. Hoping this week is a good one too.


Mand01 August 7, 2023 at 2:52 pm

1. Friend and I going to see Barbie on our day off. Snagged discounted tickets through my insurance benefits, saved a third off the ticket price.
2. Gave away several items through my Buy Nothing Group. Love that group.
3. Really upped my cooking game with a commitment to reduce food waste, and I have been able to prevent food being thrown out. Making a lot of soups, curries and pasta dishes. Have been able to keep our food bill down to the same level it was before all the inflation hit.
4. Sowed Spring veggie seeds in the greenhouse for planting in September.
5. Made veggie broth in the instant pot from scraps I’ve been saving in the freezer.


Ecoteri August 7, 2023 at 3:08 pm

FFT = the garden edition
1. Picking beans beans beans… currently many large steel mixing bowls have beans soaking in water, found some fermented dilly bean recipes and boy howdy do I have dill, so that’s gonna happen this afternoon
2. Snagged a Flashfood box of a bajillion limes. My buddy/girlfriend/accountability gym partner brought her squeeze-o-matic (or whatever it is called) to the gym today and traded me for a dozen eggs. she didn’t take the bag of limes, so I still have a bajillion. However, I will also tonight squeeze 3/4 of the limes, put many into large ice cube trays, more in glass jars in fridge. My other Flatfood purchase of peppers and pears was a bust – because someone else seems to have snagged it – however I will get a refund so that it good.
3. still digging random potatoes – this time another 3 pounds of surprise! we are RED! out of the Garlic bed as I pulled the last of the garlic. The rest had been drying on a tarp on the lawn, rain has kind of threatened so I boxed much of it up (I am a middle aged woman, of COURSE I had enough boxes to keep the kind of different varieties apart) and put on my back porch. porch is currently not company friendly, unless they are willing to cut stems off garlic along with drinking a bit of coffee!!
4. got a big bag of almost overripe bananas for huge discount. will peel and split into 6 pieces each and dehydrate in the Excaliburs on the back porch. grand healthy snack, full of potassium, and one of the few ways I actually like bananas.
5. broccoli plants are doing an amazing job of not bolting before I can cut off the heads, so I have three big bags in the fridge from a fast pass through last night. I am a huge broccoli fan.
6. my cilantro was bolting so I chopped down the block, and roasted some early jalapeño and Serrano peppers, peeled some garlic, squeezed some limes, and pulsed it all up with salt and a bit of oil into a cilantro pesto. I wish I had thought of this earlier, as my cilantro bolts all summer. YUMMY!
Continuing to pick kale for my morning not-delicious-but-very-nutritious morning smoothie glop. blackberries (thanks @Katy) get picked when I take the dog for a walk, a few each time add up. Blueberries are still producing, peas too! the glory of summertime


Heidi Louise August 8, 2023 at 2:54 pm

Of course you had enough boxes!
I just restacked mine in the basement while looking for the perfect sized one. I wish shoe boxes still had lids instead of attached fold-overs. How do school children make dioramas these days?


Mati August 21, 2023 at 3:26 am

Sitting on a friend’s porch processing garlic or snapping green beans and chatting sounds delightful.

Have you tried the fresh green seeds of cilantro, before they dry into coriander? They’re a wonderful fresh, lemony flavor somewhere in between the two. If I miss them bolting, the seeds are a great reward – bashed with garlic, salt and olive oil in a mortar and pestle for a marinade or sauce.


Jean C August 7, 2023 at 4:47 pm

1. Went to a family reunion and paid the hotel bill in cash to avoid the 3.5% “convenience fee” they charge when people pay with a credit card.
2. Picking lots of vegetables and trying desperately to use them (stuffed peppers, green bean casserole, sautéd swiss chard, etc.)
3. Made “zoodles” with copious amounts of zucchini and summer squash and gifted bags of same to friends – everyone prefers veggies that are ready to use.
4. Deep cleaned the first floor of the house – got my steps in!
5. Went to library (my happy place) and have an assortment of books to read and an audio book for the car.


Bella L August 8, 2023 at 3:22 am

Dear All, long-time reader and first time poster from Germany here, happy to give the 5 frugal things a go
– agreed to water my neighbors plants while they are away on holiday. Super easy job as it has been raining constantly for the last weeks and she offered me to help myself to their delicious grapes
– got gifted a very nice and tall indoor palm tree by a co-worker who was looking to re-home it
– saved quite some money by buying sales items for an upcoming trip before leaving
– signed up for a bonus programme offered by my health insurance which will allow me to scan receipts (eg from gym memberships, additional doctor’s appointments) in return for money back at the end of the year
– biked to work instead of taking public transport despite bad weather (most days at least)
– walked by a local food sharing shelf and saw a sad looking basil plant. Took it home, plugged all leaves, washed them and turned them into pesto. Then went on to take apart the plant in order to get to the individual strands of roots. Will “plant” those using the hydroponic method I had just learned about hours earlier for a little experimen


MB in MN August 8, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Hello, Bella L! So glad you posted. That’s a good list!


Bella L August 9, 2023 at 11:26 am

Thank you MB!


Jennifer August 8, 2023 at 10:42 am

I love the packing list idea, it can be so stressful! This would take some of the stress out.

1. My girls retired from gymnastics a long time ago and my youngest finally cleaned out her Nike Pro/leotard drawer. I quickly (in less than 30 minutes) sold 9 pairs of shorts on a Leotard Sales page. The USPS insisted on shipping them as packages rather than envelopes, which royally ticked me off AND cut into my profits. But I still made $7 per pair of shorts and that is money in and stuff out – so ultimately a win.

2. Made an appt for the Shingles vaccine and my yearly physical appt. Staying on top of your health is a savings in the long run.

3. My 22 yr old got her first real adult job! This is definitely frugal on my pocket book as she was struggling to make ends meet at 2 very PT jobs while applying to everything she could.

4. Took the youngests car in for routine brake work, and of course more work needed to be done. Dd doesn’t tell us when something feels or sounds weird, ugh. Dh noticed it when he took the car over yesterday. BUT fixing things while they aren’t totally awful problems yet is more frugal then waiting til they become major problems.

5. I have cooked dinner every single night since we got home from vacation – go me! 10 days in a row definitely helps the bank account.


Michelle August 9, 2023 at 8:51 am

Jennifer – I can certainly relate to your #3. I have boy/girl twins. The girl graduated in 3 years with her B.S. The boy took 5-1/2 to get his degree, however, he was working full-time during the last 2 years. My hubby and I financially assisted him during this time. Today, he texted me that he (too) got his first BIG BOY job! I feel like its Independence Day, in a way. I’m ecstatic!! lol The best to you and your family…


Amy August 8, 2023 at 11:25 pm

Goodwill for the win 🙂


Hawaii Planner August 10, 2023 at 11:12 am

I definitely have packing templates. I go on international work trips a lot, and have a template for those, and also templates for ski trips (requires very different gear than regular vacations) & any other “specialized” type of trip. It saves so much time! I also have backup versions of all of my toiletries, and just grab those when its time to go on a trip.
1) Speaking of travel, got upgraded to business on a work flight, using “plus points”, which is a travel perk. I could save the points for personal travel, but I’d much, much rather minimize jet lag, particularly on the way home & land back in my “real life”.
2) Our teens were out of town for 10 days, and we were able to minimize grocery purchases. I also had to fast for a medical procedure, so my husband largely ate out of the garden & freezer. Win/win.
3) I found my favorite shoes for 1/3 of the price, tucked away in the back of an outlet. Picked up to keep on hand, when the other pair inevitably ends.
4) The usual stuff: charging our car for free at work, menu planning, eating from our garden & freezers, etc.
5) I used $40 of grocery store rewards to pick up fill in items, so we could stretch out our time to a big grocery shop this weekend.


Mati August 21, 2023 at 3:35 am

I like to have two or three pairs of each type of shoe so they can be rotated, and each pair lasts longer than it would if worn every day. This usually works out to a “best” pair and one or two older pairs.


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