Five Tiny Frugal Things, Maybe Not So “Tiny”

by Katy on March 21, 2024 · 52 comments

  1. Curb picking the Lego shelf for our attic space prompted a two day project where I went through absolutely everything in the room. I decluttered, I organized, I reconfigured where everything went and I didn’t buy a single item to support the project.

    It would been so satisfying to have all our storage supplies match, but my goal is to avoid spending money on unnecessary items. Always, for both monetary and environmental reasons!  Plus laziness, as who has the energy and mental space to drive across town and decide what to buy? The perfect example of “make it do.”

    By the way, this room had become so overfilled, as to be dangerous to walk through. Pulling out a suitcase took both strength and fortitude.

    Manga chair — circa 2012

  2. My husband is working to fix the Manga Chair that I made for my daughter back in 2012. The connection between the legs and the seat broke and we set it in the attic until we could “get to it.” And so it sat for at least five years. He had to get creative with the leg connections, but it’ll actually end up sturdier than when it was new.

    After all, this was a thrifted Target chair, not a Stickley piece. People discuss “fast fashion,” but “fast furniture” is also an issue, as the thousands upon thousands (millions?) of low quality items being manufactured are not designed to last and often unrepairable.

  3. I baked a loaf of artisan bread using the 99¢/5-lb flour that I bought in December. I was hoping that New Seasons would repeat their baking season loss leader for Easter, but so far they haven’t.

  4. I gave away an unearthed portable stereo system through my Buy Nothing group, that I actually got from someone in the group maybe ten years ago.

  5. I didn’t thrift a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra March 21, 2024 at 11:35 am

I was just talking to my daughter today about entertaining a group at her house and she was thinking that she’d need to buy more chairs. I said that I have 6 Ikea folding chairs that would work. She doesn’t entertain often and it would be a waste of time and money to go out and buy extra chairs. Actually, if she wants them, she can keep them, I used them years ago, not so much now. So out of my garage and into hers. Win-win!


Katy March 22, 2024 at 9:03 am

I used to borrow my next door neighbor’s folding chairs for Thanksgiving. You can always borrow yours back again.


Denise March 21, 2024 at 12:06 pm

I often look at furniture porn, AKA – it’s an auction house aggregation site so you see thousands of items for sale by auction, from the local house clearance type places up to the Sotheby’s elite. What is shocking is how cheap lovely antiques are, if they are being sold by regional auction houses. I’m talking 18th and 19th century furniture, much of it beautifully proportioned, hand made pieces. Selling dining tables for £150, for instance. There are also lots of modern items for sale.

If people want beauty and environmentally sound purchases, they seem to just look for something with “eco-credentials” – but it’s still a new item. I tried talking about this to my nephew. He’s 27, just left his parents’ home (paid £150 pcm for his contribution) is living with his girlfriend now. Baby on the way. When I suggested that they look for secondhand clothing and toys for their baby, due this summer, and take a look at that website for furniture, you would have thought that I had sug He show his backside in Bergdorf Goodman’s windows. Utterly horrified by my suggestions.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 9:02 am

Yeah, not everyone gets it.


Marie March 22, 2024 at 1:15 pm

Absolutely love your rendition of is backside in Bergdorf Goldman’s window!! Lol


Susie's Daughter March 21, 2024 at 12:19 pm

1) I finally tried it! After reading about “bread crumb cookies” in the Tightwad Gazette years ago, I got up my gumption and tried a version of them yesterday (without cocoa powder). They were helped along by the addition of some elderly rice crisp cereal, the end of a bag of chocolate chips and some salted caramel chips I don’t otherwise love. A tasty experiment and winnows down the MULTIPLE bags of bread crumbs in the freezer.

2) Brought home the extra snacks we supplied from DS’s statewide Odyssey of the Mind competition. Enjoying the lemonade from Trader Joe’s especially.

3) Thanks to some brilliant frugal friend in this community, I culled my recipe binder and reorganized to include a category for instant pot recipes. Thank you to whomever suggested this great idea!

4) In the few minutes between a day long work meeting and an evening school board meeting, I lugged the grocery bag full of books in my backseat into our used bookstore and got $40 in store credit. The three books the owner didn’t want went directly into the library free box as the two places are one block from each other.

5) STILL eating out of the freezer and pantry (hence the bread crumb cookies). Making extra rice whenever I cook it in the IP and freezing it for faster dinner options with the random collection of things that remain. Will compost some long frozen homemade tomato sauce that was too bitter from the start, but otherwise figuring out how to use what we have. Every time I think “Well, that was fine, but not fantastic” about a meal, I remind myself that even fast food subs for the three of us would be close to $40. It makes the homemade stuff taste better!


K D March 22, 2024 at 4:19 am

I too have been cooking large amounts of rice and then freezing it in meal sized portions. I use bags that originally held three pounds of baby carrots. It makes it so easy to have rice available for a meal.


Mary Ann March 22, 2024 at 6:55 am

I don’t know if I was the brilliant frugal friend but I did rearrange all my recipes by appliance: Airfryer, Vitamix, Instapot, Dutch Oven, breadmaker , Salad Dressing (shaker) and then added a Potluck/Gathering section. This totally works seems I am not a natural cook and keep only the best recipe.s Like my wardobe, I only keep what totally works, is easy, and always receives compliments.

My pantry challenge is still going strong. I have used up the last of the frozen berries today. It is great to get into a habit of a smoothie every morning. It uses up so many odds and ends.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:43 am

So organized, I’m impressed!


Katy March 22, 2024 at 9:02 am

I love ice tea mixed with lemonade, (Arnold Palmer) such a satisfying summer drink. I would’ve brewed up some ice tea to go with the lemonade.

I’ve always wished that I had a proper pantry, but reading everyone’s comments about the challenge of actually eating their food makes me think my minimal food storage id okay after all.


Marie March 22, 2024 at 1:19 pm

Husband made a pantry out of the 3rd bedrooms closet.
3 shelves, works fine, especially for big things.


Vickey March 28, 2024 at 4:32 pm

Moving to the northeast and experiencing being shut in for nearly 10 days thanks to blizzards and the flu made me realize how valuable a pantry is for climates like ours. I stay on top of rotating foodstuffs, and was very very happy when COVID hit to be able to spend very little time in grocery stores. And know that if things got truly awful, I could help feed my neighbors.


Dori March 21, 2024 at 12:41 pm

EPIC!! That manga chair really is so cute. Exciting that your daughter might be able to use it again, and even sturdier than before! Those kinds of fixes are tricky sometimes, but ultimately SO satisfying to do.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:58 am

Yes, my husband is on a fix-it roll!


Ruby March 21, 2024 at 1:19 pm

Your attic adventures sound like how I wound up cleaning out our garage twice recently, once without and once with my husband. It’s amazing what a good organizational turn through a room can do.

I spent most of the day in the kitchen, making mixed berry baked oatmeal, cleaning out the fridge, and using a huge lemon to make a glazed lemon loaf cake. Made a quick trip to the grocery store to buy dog food and crackers and snagged a huge pork roast on markdown for $6.67. Cut it in half to freeze .


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:57 am

So smart to freeze half the pork!


Ruby March 22, 2024 at 10:07 am

I have found that we just don’t eat as much now that we’re at retirement age. It’s been an adjustment to think that half as much works out better.


MB in MN March 21, 2024 at 2:21 pm

Just returned from a quick grocery run to Trader Joe’s, along with the rest of the local population before our expected snowstorm – it was quite festive. Bananas are now 23 cents each here. Still a great deal for a healthy item in its own packaging.

In other tiny news, my experiment in gradually decreasing portion sizes has been a success. I’ve saved money, lost weight, and still feel full.


Coral Clarke March 21, 2024 at 4:26 pm

When I respond to posts asking for frugal hints I always suggest checking online for nutritionally appropriate serving sizes. People are stunned when they realise they have often been eating DOUBLE the carb/ protein portions required ( rarely over eating other veg! Or fresh fruit!) And, like you, I recommend a gradual decrease! I also recommend slicing protein a little thinner, meat eaters in the family are less likely to notice a weight reduction when the plate looks as full! 3 sausages cut into thin pennies and stirred through 4 servings of pasta looks generous, too!


Mary Ann March 22, 2024 at 11:07 am

Excellent idea ,Coral.

Other posts immediately offer panic suggestions like complete beans and roce of food pantry. Those ideas have a place but I have to look at the fact that my husband and I are 20 pounds over weight. A large bag of kale that will last 10 days and offers vital nutrients is $3.50. Eggs are nearly a perfect protein at about .25 a piece right now. Frozen spinach is the best value/nutrient wise oz. in prepared food. Smaller portions added to these staples is incredibly inexpensive.


Mary Ann March 22, 2024 at 11:07 am

complete beans and rice or food pantry. (sp)


Katy March 21, 2024 at 5:18 pm

What?! Nooooo!!!!!!


Vickey March 28, 2024 at 4:37 pm

>> In other tiny news<< This made me chuckle. Thanks!


Lindsey March 21, 2024 at 3:30 pm

I did a totally UNfrugal thing: the Sumo season is ending, and the grocery produce guy said this may be the last shipment. (We are the last to get fresh produce and the first to not get them, if that makes any sense.) So, I bought 15 pounds of them (which means 17 of them) for $5.99 a pound. Yup, $89 for oranges. And I don’t even care.

But I still did some frugal things: 1. Managed to do a salvage operation on a dessert that used a lot of egg yolks and cream and berries. It just didn’t have the right texture, so I made the berries into compote and stirred it in to hide the texture and served it in puff pastry cups to take the emphasis off just the cream pudding. And I made the puff pastry from scratch, as the husband was gone and I had no vehicle (we shut off our gardening truck for the winter). The guest arrived and ate it and was never the wiser.
2. I used to have a fascination for cloaks. Too many Bronte books, I think. I had one in velvet and one in wool, each of which cost over $100, 20 years ago. Also a corduroy one in apple green and another in scarlet. It took a year, but I sold the last one this week. I waved goodby to my youth as I handed the parcel over to the postman.
3. I made valiant efforts to work on eating the huge sack of rice my moving friend gave us. Finally admitted to myself that I hate rice, and the husband only tolerates it if it is fried rice. I gave the whole sack away to a family with four kids. (I might have forced myself to use it if I had four kids to feed!) Food clutter out.
4. Traded one of my many containers of frozen pumpkin pulp from last summer’s garden for a bag of lettuce produced by a friend’s hydroponic garden.
5. Dropped off many pounds of newspapers I have been saving at the dog pound, along with worn blankets. Clutter out and I like visiting the dogs there. The husband went with me today, to make sure I did not bring home the pure bred bloodhound that was turned in this morning. He knows me so well. I tell him that in my next life I am opening a giant animal sanctuary.


Ecoteri March 21, 2024 at 9:44 pm

@Lindsey, Yay for your self-awareness – that you LOVE those Sumos, and that you DO NOT LOVE that rice. We are frugal so we can at times enjoy a treat that is really special. I know every single one of your $5.00 Oranges will be savoured…. (and you will zest them, right, to save the joys for days when the oranges are gone)…


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:56 am

Huge props to you for recognizing that you’re not a rice eater and putting in the hands of people who’ll actually (and enjoy) it!

I had a cloak once, which I got at a garage sale. Long gone.


Mary Ann March 22, 2024 at 11:11 am

I wish I could beam our tangerines to you. In the new house we inherited, we found a tree with the world’s sweet. Just went to sushi and spent the exact same amount to feed two of us. Frugal fail? I don’t know. Hubby was coming from a cancer check and wanted sushi; it became a date night – watching basketball at the bar. I think totally worth it.


Ecoteri March 22, 2024 at 4:14 pm

@Mary Ann, see? another reason to be frugal so you CAN have sushi when your husband wants a treat. Cancer checks sound scary…


Christine March 21, 2024 at 6:55 pm

1. I found another penny on the floor at work. My found change is not growing by leaps and bounds but more like pennies and more pennies.
2. Made myself a bowl of popcorn for a snack. A cheap and healthy snack.
3. I went to a wonderful talk at our library about women’s roles in the history of American aviation. I learned so much, including the fact that women pilots test flew the B29s my father flew in as a bombadier during WWII. Also, that the pilot was in charge during take offs and landings but the rest of the mission, the bombardier gave the orders. Who knew? My father never mentioned it but then again, he wouldn’t.
4. DH is trying to eat less sodium and suggested we have a roast chicken instead of ham for Easter dinner. Sounds good to me.
5. Still eating the free sandwiches for supper the deli gives us to take home on the days I work there, keeping the heat down and layering clothing in the house (it’s been so cold and windy here in New England), drinking water and homemade iced tea for frugality and no calories, reading library books, checked out the art show by a local artist while at the aviation talk and keeping my fingers crossed the brake job scheduled for my car tomorrow is just that and only that.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:51 am

I found three pennies on the floor of my attic, which got added to my “Found Change Challenge” jar, so hardly leaps and bounds here either. That sounds like a really interesting talk, I would have enjoy that.


Jill A March 22, 2024 at 3:10 am

1. Visited my daughter 4 hrs away. Drove my hybrid vehicle. I filled up on gas on the toll road because it was cheaper than at home.
2. I took food and water to eat on the road.
3. I used my EZ PASS to save on tolls.
4. I brought my daughter two jars of frozen soup. She will take them to work for her lunches.
5. I forgot my facial lotion. My daughter had free samples so I used that instead.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:49 am

Such a nice mama to bring your daughter soup!


K D March 22, 2024 at 4:34 am

I love that the chair will be in sturdier condition after it is repaired than it was in the first place.

1. Last Friday I brought home three half bushels of “seconds” apples. They were $10 per half bushel since I bought three. DH helped me wash, core, and cut the apples. We used our Crock Pot and a slow cooker borrowed from a neighbor. We attempted using the Instant Pot but were not happy with the results with the Slow Cook nor the Pressure Cook settings. Many saved jars were filled with applesauce and most are in the freezer. I gave a few jars to the slow cooker owning neighbor. Many of the apples were fine for eating so some are in the refrigerator for that purpose. DH loved the cardboard containers the apples came in and will reuse them.

2. We went to Harper’s Ferry for the day. We used my Senior Lifetime National Park Pass to park and took the bus to/from the town. We liked the combination of nature and history. We walked a portion of the Appalachian Trail which shares a path with two other trails. It was a beautiful day.

3. We went to Fort McHenry to see the cherry blossoms and walk around the grounds. Again we used my Senior NP park though some areas of the park do not require an entry fee.

4. I found out my shoulder and elbow pain are caused by a herniated disc in my cervical spine. I will be going to PT. While PT is not cheap it is worth the time and money to regain functionality and remove pain.

5. We managed to spend down our 2023 FSA account by March 15th, the deadline. DH got a new pair of glasses and two pairs of orthotics. It is a spend it or forfeit it situation and I don;t like to see our money go to waste.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:48 am

I love a good day trip, as you get the fun of travel without packing, dealing with making sure cat is taken care of, mail is brought in, etc. etc. Portland is close enough to the coast, mountains, Columbia river that there are so many amazing choices.


JDinNM March 22, 2024 at 6:31 am

I refuse to buy new/additional storage containers, a/k/a “buying stuff for my stuff.” Seems counter productive. Unless you make your living producing YouTube videos showcasing the stuff you buy for your stuff…


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:45 am

“Buying stuff for my stuff,” a brilliant way of phrasing this!


JDinNM March 24, 2024 at 10:28 am

I just saw an article in The Paris Review (“A Well-Contained Life”): “We Use containers to solve the problem of stuff…. [sometimes] problems we didn’t know we had….[Containers are] a way of dealing with something rather than a thing to deal with. The thing itself is little more than the solution it offers….[T]he containers that are meant to organize … look less like solutions and more like stuff. [You buy a container] and wait for it to find the problem for itself.”


Selena March 22, 2024 at 7:16 pm

But on occasion, a storage container is worth its weight in gold. I never say never but don’t succumb to a Kardashian household.


Hawaii Planner March 22, 2024 at 6:51 am

1) Very travel focused for this one. Trying to plan inexpensive trips while I’m “funemployed” & don’t need to worry about taking time off. Used three free night credits, frequent flyer miles & an airline credit to book a hiking trip to Sedona with my mom. Goal is to keep the trip to under $1000 (rental car, food, one night of hotel).
2) Used hotel points to book a two night stay at a plush resort in driving distance to our house, for DH’s birthday. Used a suite upgrade award, and will also get free breakfast as part of my status perks.
3) Used grocery store rewards & gift cards to pick up things we’ve needed for dinner.
4) Did a great job using pantry items this week, including a Top Ramen (in yakisoba) & lasagna noodles (lasagna) that had been in the pantry forever. Pantry looks amazing!
5) Meeting up with various folks for networking & just generally catching up, while I’m not working. Have been offering walks or coffee meet ups, and at least half the time, people take me up on the walk, which is a free way to meet & always (IMO) more fun.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:44 am

I have a friend who just got back from Sedona, it looks like she had an amazing time!


Jill A March 23, 2024 at 5:54 am

I love Sedona. I visited with my kids before the pandemic. I definitely want to go back and do a little more hiking. What beautiful place.


Ruby March 22, 2024 at 8:25 am

I did purchase some small tubs and shoeboxes ar Dollar Tree when organizing the garage because my husband does woodwork in there and some things need to be protected from sawdust. But I had measured shelves and done the initial clean-out first, so the expense was minimal. He does have a sawdust vacuum system, but it is not working quite right and things were getting dusty.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 8:42 am

Sounds like you made the right choice.


A. Marie March 22, 2024 at 8:40 am

Good job on the attic cleanout, Katy. My basement and garage can use similar cleanouts, and I will try to work on these this spring and summer.

Now, FTFT, Eclipse/Friends/Neighbors Edition:

(1) My JASNA BFF is coming up from Manhattan for the solar eclipse on April 8. (My city is not smack dab in the middle of the path of totality, but well within it.) I’ve decided to try to reschedule the dental appointment I had for that morning, so that we can be in good time for the free eclipse party at our local Museum of Science and Technology downtown, which starts at noon.

(2) As part of my hot thrifting streak this week, I found a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette in good condition for $1.50 (after my senior discount) at a Thrifty Shopper. I already own a copy, but I picked this one up in the hope that the lovely Barbara (an occasional commenter here) would like it, and she says she would. I’ll give this to her on Sunday morning, when she will be volunteering at a “vintage” book sale at the FFL, one of our excellent suburban libraries. (Oddly enough, she says she’s never seen TCTG at an FFL sale.)

(3) I paid a call Thursday afternoon with two other neighbors (Bailey dog’s mom, who despite recent chemo was feeling well enough to make the visit, and my friend who’s the widow of one of DH’s longtime remodeling/construction goombahs) on two of our former neighbors–a couple in their 90s who are now living in senior housing. We had a thoroughly enjoyable review of all the street news and gossip, plus a discussion of the current woes of the Royal Family (the former neighbors are British).

(4) Before we paid the (3) call, we stopped at my fellow widow’s newly purchased house under renovation, where she will be moving in late spring (fortunately, it’s only a few blocks from this street). Her contractor is an old friend of both her late DH’s and mine, and he expressed an interest in coming by to look at and perhaps purchase some of my DH’s remaining tools. Woo hoo!

(5) And I won’t be chartering a SpaceX missile from Elon Musk for a closer view of the eclipse. (For one thing, I still value my life.)


Ruby March 22, 2024 at 10:10 am

A. Marie, you sound much perkier now that the winter is nearly gone. Will keep fingers crossed that the tools find a good home.


Ashley Bananas March 22, 2024 at 9:57 am

That space looks very organized!!! This past weekend was the neighborhood yard sale. My neighbor across the street sold several things for me and I was able to clear a lot of space in my garage. I’m trying to find the mental space to keep going and clear more of it out. I put things out for a free pile and posted in the neighborhood Facebook group. I’m working on cleaning up the porch and the garage. Two spaces that have gotten cluttered since our last hurricane took out the shed…I keep telling myself that one bag/box/item at a time I will make a dent.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 11:56 am

Crap out of the house, money in? I’m sold!


Kara March 22, 2024 at 10:08 am

I love your frugal organizing!
I, too, do not have a pantry and so I don’t have a huge backlog of food. I like to run a little leaner than that, though we do have freeze dried food, good for 15 years, for true emergencies. There is a LOT of money invested in keeping a large backlog of food, and I don’t have the space, nor do I want to park my money that way.
I had a guest for lunch yesterday and made baked potatoes, bacon, tuna (it’s an English thing!), coleslaw, carrot salad and fruit. My guest is wealthy and eats out a lot, she appreciated the homemade food. I appreciated the price!
I have saved a lot of fabric over the years, some of it sentimental (curtains from kids room) and much of it gifted to me. I always weed out the ugly gifted stuff and donate that. But large pieces that I don’t love come in very useful for many things. I am on a kick to use some of the sentimental stuff, after all it’s not filling anyone’s heart sitting in a plastic tub. I have a piece out that’s 20 years old, it’s being remade into a small throw quilt (pieced out with other fabric I already have). I have a small pile of things that will go to the kids as they have kids, and this little quilt will be added to that. The good thing is they are actually having kids, this isn’t an aspirational pile. Having this pile, with very specific physical boundaries, has helped me to let go entirely of some things and to know where the things actually are that I want to pass on. When I had these things stashed here and there, they got missed. I’m in a big “use it or lose it” mood.


Katy March 22, 2024 at 11:54 am

Thanks, I feel like a great weight has been lifted!


Blue Gate Farmgirl March 22, 2024 at 5:03 pm

I learned how to reconfigure my sprayer for the fields and a $16 part saved me $80 for a battery to run it.
While I was on a roll, I installed a battery tender to my little tractor which will extend the life of the battery.
I am cleaning out mom’s house, very slowly. We have weekly family dinners and we offer stuff up before donating it. We take the cool things and make them into raffles.


Vickey March 28, 2024 at 5:56 pm

Your approach to cleaning out your mom’s sounds like a very healthy way to go about it.


Alison March 23, 2024 at 7:20 pm

1. Dabbling a bit in reselling a few items I have picked up from thrift stores and online auctions. Have been fairly successful selling footwear, who would have thunk?
2. We are adding on 600 sq ft onto our existing 960 sq ft house. I’m trying to make sure I stick to the budget, and today I bought two pedestals for our washer and dryer for $100 for both. They are $300 each new. I was going to buy new appliances, but don’t think I will, as they are too expensive.
3. Last time we bought dog food, we were given a coupon for $20 off the next purchase over $100, so I stapled the coupon to the calendar and marked the date it expires so we would remember to use it, which we did.
4. Looking after a friend’s dog for two weeks while she is away (for free), she will look after ours in return for a weekend in the summer while we are at a wedding out of town.
5. Renting out my guest cottage on airbnb a few nights here and there, not a lot of money, but some, so it helps.


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