Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on May 12, 2016 · 29 comments

Frugality is a daily theme in my life which permeates every fiber of my being. This may sound duller than dirt, but regular Non-Consumer Advocate readers know that I find joy and satisfaction in crafting a frugal lifestyle that supports big picture financial goals such as debt free college for my kids and a comfortable retirement in my paid off house.

Here, look!

I stopped at The Grocery Outlet on my way home from dropping my son at school this morning. For $23 I bought everything in this photo.

  • Frozen swai fish fillets
  • Frozen pierogis
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cans of roma tomatoes
  • 2 bags of granola
  • 2 bottles of mango chutney (yum!)
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 12 yogurts for lunches
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 avocado
  • 6 pounds of organic onions for French Onion soup and to chop for the freezer.
  • 1 container of ranch dip
  • 1 pound of dry garbanzo beans
  • 1 pound of baby carrots


I borrowed my neighbor’s pressure washer and spent a few enjoyable hours slicking up my backyard rock wall and brick patio. (I think that using a pressure washer is one of life’s most satisfying activities!)

Scummy looking stone and brick medallion, before:

Brick medallion, before

Brick medallion, after: (Sorry the photos are so dark, but my backyard is deeply shady!)

medallion, after

Stone wall, before:

stone wall, before

Stone wall, after:

stone wall, after

I often write about the treasures that others consider to be castoffs, and it would be understandable if you were to worry that I’m a closet hoarder. Fear not, dear readers as there are many an item I’d rather not bring into my home. For example, this eyelash curler which I spied in a parking lot:

free eyelash curler

Grating buzzer noise. Not only have I never felt like my life would be better if my eyelashes were slightly curled up, but I’m pretty sure this is a one-way ticket to a nasty eye infection.

Or this pile of free stuff that included a decidedly untempting jock strap:

free jock strap

I’m quite sure that bringing this into our home would be what my husband and I would later look back on as “the end of our marriage.”

Right now I have half of the onions in the crock pot for French onion soup, (I made a roast on Mother’s Day and have been hoarding the beef broth ever since.) and I just put a couple of things on the front porch for Buy Nothing group members to pick up. I’ll write up a new Clark Howard article this afternoon and then bake a loaf of bread to accompany the soup.

Yup, frugality is a terrible sacrifice!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

NMPatricia May 12, 2016 at 11:49 am

Share your recipe for onion soup recipe?


Katy May 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

It’s a loose recipe, based on what I have on hand. Just sautéed onions and beef broth, although I only make it when I have actual broth from from cooking a roast. If I had some wine, I’d add it.


NMPatricia May 12, 2016 at 1:46 pm



Ellen May 12, 2016 at 11:59 am

I’m quite sure that bringing this into our home would be what my husband and I would later look back on as “the end of our marriage.” LOL!


kathleen May 12, 2016 at 7:24 pm



Debbie May 12, 2016 at 9:05 pm

This reminds me of when I bent my own rule of not buying used undergarments. I came across 5 pairs of what were clearly brand new boxer shorts in my husband’s size at Goodwill that I suspect were donated by a store because the package had been opened. At 50 cents a pair, I bought all 5. My husband looked at me look I had 2 heads as I told him I picked him up some boxers at Goodwill. I explained my “open package” theory to him and told him we could either wash them twice in hot water and he could wear them, or, for that price, we could donate them back. Entirely his choice. He actually chose to keep (double wash) and wear them. He’s had a few good years of wear out of them, and I’m happy to report that our marriage is still intact. LOL


Katy May 12, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Whew . . . that was a close one!


JD May 12, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Does that say you bought tomatoes for onion soup? Your recipe differs from mine (sorry, I had to tease).
Yeah, I’m not touching a used eyelash curler, nor would I want a new one. My eyelashes curl up anyway — I have curly hair. And used jock straps, um, no.
That’s quite a lot of swag for the money, and the patio and wall look muy better. Quite a satisfying day, if you ask me.
The best I’ve done lately on food deals is getting sweet potatoes for 37.5 cents a pound.


Katy May 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Oops, I missed that! Thanks for copy editing. I need all the help I can get!


Bee May 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm

i am glad you passed up the jock strap. It is the definition of the eweeeeee factor. But all kidding aside, your frugal life is filled with riches and treasures.


Ruby May 12, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Caramelized onions are fab on homemade pizza too. I made some up the last time we had an overabundance of onions.

We’ve been keeping on with keeping on being frugal at my house. This week’s menus have centered around salad that used up leftovers, soup that cleaned out the produce drawer in the fridge, cake leftover from Mother’s Day, and homemade bread.


Karen May 12, 2016 at 2:51 pm

I just wanted to say how much your values resonate with me. I think the joys of frugality are much underrated, and you are such a great voice for how the simple pleasures of non-consumerism add a lot of satisfaction to my life. There is nothing my family appreciates more than my homemade soup, bread and cookies. I’ve noticed that restaurants will sometimes brag that their dishes taste homemade, but I’ve never heard a great home cook brag that his/her dishes taste like they came from a restaurant…


Katy May 12, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Oh yes, I am a HUGE fan of caramelized onions!


Vickie May 12, 2016 at 2:16 pm

It would be interesting to compare how much more you would spend for the same ingredients at another store.


Katy May 12, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Hmm . . . let me think. The eight pack of yogurts was 99¢, the mango chutneys were 50¢ apiece, the 3-lb bags of onions were 99¢ and the large cans of tomatoes were 79¢ each. The ranch dressing was 25¢, the granolas were 99¢ and the fish fillets were $5.49.


K D May 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm

“Frugality is a daily theme in my life which permeates every fiber of my being”. I love it and it is not deprivation, unless you look at it that way. It is a means to an end and can be satisfying.

Our meals continue to be based on food we have, acquired at a good/great prices. I have skipped shopping (the loss leaders) at Giant and Safeway the past few weeks because we have more than enough food in the house.

I spent close to two hours on the phone this afternoon with a friend that is going through a very tough time. It cost me nothing but time and attention but meant the world to her, that I was there to listen.

This morning I took a friend visiting from overseas with me to a volunteer gig. It took a tiny bit of extra time and gasbut was a good experience for both of us, and the friends we saw there.


Nancy May 12, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Katy, do you wake up in the morning and say “How can I be frugal today?” 😉


Katy May 12, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Nope. It’s usually “Why is my house’s one and only bathroom so far from my bedroom?!” After that, then yes . . . it’s all about frugality. 😀


Connie D May 12, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Katy, as much as I appreciate frugality, which daily enhances my life as well as yours, I have to VEHEMENTLY disagree about the pressure washer. Not only does the sound it makes (which goes on for hours and hours and hours and… you get the message) make me want to take my own life to get away from it, I think it is a terrible waste of good water. And, to top it off, pressure washing pits concrete and pavement so it degrades more quickly and thus has to be repaired or replaced.


Katy May 12, 2016 at 3:20 pm

I did wear ear protection with my trusty ear buds underneath, so I was able to listen to podcasts during the process. Yes, it uses a ton of water, although I live in Portland, Oregon which is not a drought zone. I only do this chore every other year, so hopefully any concrete degradation is minimal.

But it’s so fun! 😉


Margie May 12, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Would you share you crock pot recipe for French Onion soup?
Also….I love to pressure wash my backyard/deck area. It is truely a satisfying experience. I understand your joy, Katy!


Katy May 12, 2016 at 9:13 pm

It’s vaguely based on this Tip Hero recipe, although I added no vinegar or wine. I used what I had.


dawninsac May 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm

I’ve been a log time Grocery Outlet (GO) shopper (as well as our local asian markets because they have super cheap rice, produce and meats) and my two GO’s never have the deals that you find. I wonder if it is a CA pricing strategy? Yes I get some deals but never the big markdowns. I wonder what’s up with that? I know they are individually owned…I wonder if that makes the difference…..


janine May 12, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Frugality is a way to help ensure security – sadly lacking in many households these days – and it can be a really fun and satisfying activity.
This morning I stayed home and made blueberry muffin bread from blueberries I froze last summer and unearthed from the freezer. It made a welcome addition to the homemade scalloped potato dish I also concocted. It took a little time, but was creatively satisfying and no additional $$ outlay either.
I envy Katy’s bargains – we do have an Aldi, but the Grocery Outlet in our area doesn’t seem to have merchandise that would lure me across town. Great score!


Emily N. May 14, 2016 at 8:53 am

Call me crazy, but I totally would have picked up the eyelash curler. It looks much nicer than the one I have. The little rubber pads that touch your eyelashes come out so they can be replaced. I’d just sanitize the metal and put in a new rubber pad.


Randi May 17, 2016 at 8:51 am

How do you feel about sustainability? While I admire your frugality, I would NOT purchase or consume Swai. Its not a sustainable fish. Its not even regulated and I’d worry about what I was consuming.


Katy May 17, 2016 at 9:36 am

I deliberately chose this fish as it was not from China. (The other fish was.) Is swai a problem? I was not aware of this.


Melissa May 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm

We have a version of swai here in Australia called basa – same fish, same gross conditions it’s farmed in (in Vietnam usually) I won’t buy it even though it’s cheap!!


Mrs. Picky Pincher May 20, 2016 at 5:42 am

I have also been tempted to save or use “gross” things in the name of being frugal! I think you can definitely get too caught up if you don’t watch yourself, hahaha.


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