Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on December 29, 2023 · 58 comments

I continue my efforts to pull meals together from the excess of my refrigerator contents. This here is a last half of a bag of spinach, the last of some smoked salmon, homemade sauerkraut and two eggs.

I put a few more things up for offer through my Buy Nothing group, including this needlepoint pillow that I thrifted a few years ago. Looking at the photo, I realize that it’s remarkably shaped like the state of Oregon.

You see it too, right?Today I stepped out of my car and looked down to find this soggy trampled rag towel at my feet. So I brought it home to launder and add it to my stash of cleaning towels. I hate abandoned objects that still have potential use.

Here’s the quicky and dirty painting I did for my mother, since her Christmas present wasn’t going to come until after the holidays. It turns out that she was genuinely worried that I’d bought her pair of Doc Martin boots!

That’s about it, as my week was far from aesthetic. Lots of dull errands and putting the house back to rights.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey December 29, 2023 at 7:58 pm

1. In the back of the fridge I found container of cider, open but still fine to drink. We have a lot of other holiday drinks (like eggnog) to get through so rather than letting the cider go to waste, I made popsicles out of it.
2. Used eggnog I was afraid would go bad to make eggnog pound cake; I always buy eggnog in December and then after one or two glasses I decide I don’t like it as much as I remembered. It was enough to make two loaves of it, so I froze one and am taking one to a friend who has been house and bed bound for over two years now. She lies there alone in her bed, reading or watching TV, except for the morning and evening carer who gets her ready for the day and then for bed 12 hours later. I know I would not be as sweet and lively as she is. I am also bringing her a bag of magazines that I have been saving for her, which has the side benefit of clearing one of the piles of stuff up and out of our house.
3. Took on a mystery shop for food delivery—free food, delivered to my house, plus a small payment for doing the shop? Yes, please, especially because it is 29 below zero this evening. (Today I ran across the availability of the weirdest shop ever—for a Catholic church. Not in my town so I could not open the specs up to see exactly what someone would be looking for…)
4. Listed three puzzles on our buy nothing site, leaving them on the porch for pickup. Opened the door later to find them gone and a half dozen snickerdoodles in their place, with a nice thank you card. She also left me her address and phone number, because she thought I might hesitate to eat them for fear they were poisoned or something.
5. Husband fixed a computer glitch for an acquaintance. When she came to pick it up, she brought cookies–FOR THE DOG! Saves us buying dog treats but better than that was the laugh I got out of it.


Selena December 29, 2023 at 8:32 pm

@Lindsey – I have to ask where you are geographically located (country, state, province is fine).
You can freeze eggnog as is – we’ve done so (thought the almost local state dairy brand is SO much better than what better half bought this year). Some bourbon/whiskey and/or scoop of vanilla ice cream added to said eggnog makes a tasty treat.


Lindsey December 30, 2023 at 10:27 am

Northern Alaska. I cannot fathom why no one has ever suggested vanilla ice cream as being a good pairing with eggnog—genius!


Selena December 30, 2023 at 7:36 pm

If you opt for adult beverage added, ice cream in glass, add adult beverage then the eggnog. The adult beverage on ice cream crystalizes *almost* like the ice cream in a root beer float.
My better half used the ice cream trick one year to stretch what eggnog we had left. Now it is a tradition whether refrigerated or frozen-then-thawed eggnog.


kathleen December 30, 2023 at 8:13 pm

My great aunt (who was my style and decorating idol when I was growing up) actually made eggnog for parties by letting a good quality of vanilla ice cream melt in the punch bowl and adding nutmeg and brandy or rum to taste. I had not thought of that for YEARS! Thanks for giving me a smile thinking of her tonight. 🙂

Bee December 30, 2023 at 5:48 am

The Catholic Church mystery shop is very interesting. I wonder what the church is gathering info on. How welcoming the church is? Service times? The appropriateness of homilies? The ease of using Charitable services? I can see a benefit to this.


A. Marie December 30, 2023 at 8:15 am

Or perhaps there’s a thrift shop or a religious goods shop attached to the church (I’ve seen examples of both)? I trust Lindsey will fill us in when she’s done the mystery shop.


Emily Grant December 30, 2023 at 5:42 pm

I’ve made French toast with leftover eggnog many times!


texasilver December 29, 2023 at 9:46 pm

I rescue sodden items also. Two days ago, I saw a ripped garbage bag containing women’s clothes in a parking lot. They were wet. Into the car trunk they went for me to wash. Next, they will go to the psy hospital. There is usually someone who can use what others throw away.


Katy December 29, 2023 at 10:04 pm

Good for you!


A. Marie December 30, 2023 at 8:17 am

I do rescues of this sort from time to time myself. My latest one, a few months ago, was a giant striped beach towel in perfect condition except for a few tire tracks, which have come out after several launderings.


K D December 30, 2023 at 9:50 am

We have rescued beach towels, tee-shirts, hats, etc. If we can’t use them we find new owners for them after washing. I still have a zip fleece DH found about twenty years ago.


Anne December 30, 2023 at 1:16 pm

My friend was at a beach that has a sea wall so the waves are very small and it is mostly frequented by families with very young children. She was there fairly late one day and it was pretty empty as she packed up to go . Looking around she realized there were a lot of sand toys half buried in the sand. She collected an entire tote full.

I’m not sure of the parents didn’t see them or were too rich to care. Quite possibly too exhausted.


Marilyn December 30, 2023 at 5:16 pm

Or possibly the children did what my son did when he was young: buried their favorite toy under the sand and then cried sad tears when we could not find it later. (I did eventually find it after digging and raking in the sand for some time).

Bee December 30, 2023 at 5:42 am

I love the needlepoint pillow. It has a great vintage vibe. I’m sure it made someone very happy.


Myrtle Mary Perkins December 30, 2023 at 6:52 am

I have seen a recipe that replaces the condensed milk in pumpkin pie with eggnog. I’ve never tried it, because I drink the eggnog too fast.


MB in MN December 30, 2023 at 6:29 pm

Eggnog in pumpkin pie sounds so yummy!


mary in maryland December 30, 2023 at 7:10 am

I collect road kill gloves and mittens all year. I wash them with the usual laundry and hand them out as unmatched pairs at the day laborer center near me on cold days.
Worst frugal save–last night I was making a sweet potato soup for dinner. I used bouillon powder and thought I might as well use the water the Mister was using to soak the sourdough starter jar for the broth. The water was a little cloudy, but I thought the extra flour could hardly hurt the soup. After adding the water to the other ingredients, I realized he had put dish soap in the soaking water. I poured the whole mess into a colander thinking to pull out the sweet potatoes. But there was no time for sautéing another onion, etc. So I rinsed the whole lot, put it back in the pot, and added more powder and water. Tap water. The soup was a little less tasty than usual. And the Mister claims to be blowing bubbles whenever he passes gas . . . which is quite often.


Nancy December 30, 2023 at 8:10 am

Thanks for making me laugh out loud!


A. Marie December 30, 2023 at 8:31 am

Tell the Mister that his new party trick might be useful on New Year’s Eve–either for blowing extra bubbles or for clearing obnoxious partygoers out of the room!


mary in maryland December 30, 2023 at 10:49 am

I just reloaded my bubble-maker with the leftover soup at lunchtime. Alas, no parties this year. However, I still chuckle about the time he sang “Cause I’m a blond!” (from Earth Girls are Easy with Geena Davis). On the way home from that party he apologized–worrying that I might have thought he was singing about me. I replied that when people look at us and think “dizzy blond”, it’s not me they are pointing at.
And you couldn’t tell about the Dawn of the soup unless you knew. Which, alas, we both did.


Lindsey December 30, 2023 at 10:32 am

This entry and the comments it triggered should get an award for funniest letter of the year!


Jill A December 30, 2023 at 4:22 pm

You and your husband are hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.


Blue Gate Farmgirl December 31, 2023 at 11:55 am

Best story of the year! It took me four tries to stop laughing to read your story aloud to my mom. Still gasping from laughing so hard!


Ruby December 30, 2023 at 8:48 am

Because i can procrastinate like whoa, I tackled the mending pile instead of doing a bookkeeping task for my late brother’s estate. Fixed two pairs of slacks, the cuffs on a sweater, a winter cap, a pair of socks, and lengthened a cute but annoyingly too short French terry shirt by cutting the bottom off a coordinating French terry shirt that does not fit right and sewing it to the hem of the too short one. That turned two not really wearable shirts into one that’s just right.

Having done that — sewing is fun, I did the other task. The estate is pretty much settled except for paying the taxes, which I will be happy to hand off to our CPA friend.


Bee December 30, 2023 at 1:34 pm

You really have the most amazing sewing skills. You managed to save what many people would just give up on. Today when mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I came across a post by a seamstress who recycles vintage tablecloths by making them into beautiful blouses, dresses and christening gowns. Some of the cloths used had intricate lace patterns and exquisite needle work. Some were just funky 1960s cloths and others were made of fine Irish linen. Although there are several YouTube videos and other postings, I wish that I could find this particular post and link it. Her work was sensational. I thought this was a wonderful upcycle idea. Have you tried doing this by chance?


Katy December 30, 2023 at 1:49 pm

I’ve seen that woman on Instagram as well, she’s amazing! I think it’s this woman:


Bee December 30, 2023 at 3:17 pm

Yes, it is! I recognize the label. She makes beautiful clothing! It’s inspiring!


Ruby December 30, 2023 at 3:18 pm

I have remade items into clothes for my son when he was little or as home decor, but rarely sew clothing from scratch any more. It’s easier for me to modify pieces bought at a thrift shop to fit perfectly.

Her talent is amazing. Those are truly one of a kind pieces.


Vickey January 9, 2024 at 6:28 am

Ruby, I’m in solidarity with your productive procrastination habit. Sometimes I’m most productive when I’m avoiding that other thing over there in the (mental or physical) corner.


Heidi Louise December 30, 2023 at 8:57 am

I am trying to imagine a house in which I would have leftover smoked salmon.
How lovely to be you! (It’s one of my favorite foods).


A. Marie December 30, 2023 at 11:30 am

Heidi Louise, I’m with you on that one. Smoked salmon lasts about 5 minutes Chez A. Marie.


K D December 30, 2023 at 10:01 am

We too are are focused using up food from the refrigerator and freezer. We won’t need to do much grocery shopping next month.

I listed ten items on Freecycle on Thursday and the last one will be picked up today. I also listed five items today. I was able to pass along three puzzles, two of which a neighbor shared with us.


Bethany M December 30, 2023 at 10:48 am

My laptop went completely kaput. Thankfully my job provides me a computer, so I can do my stuff on there or my phone for now.

It’s a 3 paycheck month for my husband. It’s the first time in a long time that it feels like life didn’t slurp it up.

Got a 12 month cd rate locked in before rates drop. We need about a year to save up for the next big thing anyway.

I picked up 10 lbs of Albanese gummy bears that the company donated to my 7th grade science class so we can use them to make DNA models. Thanks, Albanese!

I was super tired after a long drive yesterday and being under the weather. I picked up a pizza at Aldi to throw in the oven instead of takeout. It was very filling. We had leftovers for lunch today.


Gina in NY December 30, 2023 at 4:09 pm

Using gummy bears to teach DNA is brilliant!


Mary Ann December 30, 2023 at 11:43 am

Back from my 60th birthday Christmas Market River Cruise with son and hubby. It was all of which I dreamed. The best part was realizing how the three of us are all so compatible now as adults. I am very grateful.

Back in reality. . . six months to go before I retire. I want to begin trial runs on future pension budgets that are comfortable which allow me to avoid digging into my 403 b for as long as possible. I want the compunding magic to continue since i am on the youngish side of retirement. My pension is generous so I just need to get organized.

1. Pulled the trigger and listed my last “absurdly priced” Magnolia Pearl pants. I priced it to sell and it was gone in 24 hours. I will leave the balance at Poshmark and use it to purchase any necessary replacement clothing because i seriously want my clothing budget to be zip for these six months. I have hear over and over again, retired people just don’t need the same amount of clothes.

2. My sleep schedule is still off so I went to Joann’s fabrics and picked through 90% Halloween and Fall items. With my teacher’s 20% discount I did really well. The large purchase was a $50 Halloween wreath complete with skulls and spiders for $8.00. Since son left , I do nothing for Halloween nd this is a nice compromise. I also bought felting kits for $2.00. I just learned how to do this and fell in love. I bought bath bomb molds to start making my own.

3. I made yogurt to eat for the next two weeks.

4. I settle my year long books. I am so proud of myself for keeping track of everything. No accountant will certify me. But I have a great idea of where my money goes, I have funds for future projects, and can keep track of progress. I have about 20% of my pay check go straight into savings which never goes into these books. This means if I spend what comes into it, I am still ok. Given that, within the software is a three month emergency fund, a fund for my HSA and an idea a future big needs like a car. So credi me for allowing myself to be messy and not perfect but to progress.

5. I used a bday gift certificate at Etsy to buy this iron art.
We have placed in the garden an iron statue made by the grandson of the century home owner. We are renovating. It needed something in a raised dish. – probably flowers. Since I cant grow things easily, the dish will now hold the world.


MEM December 30, 2023 at 11:53 am

Question about your River Cruise – DS29 is 100% disabled from birth and travels with DH and I everywhere. The River Cruise cabins only seem to have the one bed. Did your son book a separate cabin? Thank you.


Mary Ann December 30, 2023 at 1:29 pm

Each queen size bed easily becomes 2 beds at request. We had to buy 2 rooms which was a substantial cost because their is a single occupancy penalty. However it was very much worth it.

With your son I would highly suggest paying up to at least a veranda stateroom BB. The french veranda was what my husband and son shared and it was tiny. Having said that, I am sure if you call them they have handicap services.

God bless you.


MEM December 30, 2023 at 4:01 pm

Thank you – my son is not physically disabled. It was much easier when my daughter traveled with us but she has her own life now 🙂


Heidi Louise December 30, 2023 at 12:20 pm

What a great start to your 60th year!
and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that, and…


Vickey January 9, 2024 at 6:39 am

Heidi Louise, I love the spirit of adventure in your comment! Soon entering my “Third Act” here, and elated at the possibilities (none of which should be costly.) Thanks for the inspo!


Jean C December 30, 2023 at 3:32 pm

The pillow that is shaped like the state of Oregon was a bjtvof a stretch for me -lol.

That looks like a remarkably tasty meal and use of odds and ends. We are still in “use it up” and “what is taking up all that space” in the freezer mode. It has lead to some creative meals.

We did a small shop this morning and I had to restrain myself from buying enticing items (think people treating themselves with New Year’s Eve goodies out in full force) until we finally consume all the Christmas leftovers and treats.


Katy December 30, 2023 at 3:52 pm

I prefer spinach to lettuce, as it can be used for both salad or in hot savory dishes. Lettuce? Not so much.


Selena December 30, 2023 at 7:39 pm

Or in place of lettuce on a sandwich. Excellent choice on a tuna salad sandwich (pickles too if you like).


Jill A December 31, 2023 at 6:49 am

It also last longer which is important for those of us who don’t have a houseful of children any longer.


Gina in NY December 30, 2023 at 4:38 pm

I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting my frugal 5 and have some big financial goals in the next couple of years. I love reading all the great things everyone shares here. It’s inspiring! Thank you, Katy, for your blog and for keeping 5FT going.

1. While on a dog park adventure, I foraged a bundle of white pine needles to make fermented pine soda (bonus: I used thrifted Grolsch bottles). I’ll let you know in three days if it really tastes like Sprite. 2023 was my year of making fermented and boozy things from mostly foraged fruits and flowers. I have high hopes for the pine fermented beverages I plan to make.
2. I made a salad for dinner using less expensive Iceburg lettuce. Salad was requested by the SO and we paired it with leftover soup. I also baked an ALDI apple strudel from the depths of the freezer for dessert.
3. Again, inspired by posts here, I picked up some stray receipts and scanned them into Fetch. I have no idea why I never thought to do this before! I also remembered to scan my own receipts into the app. I have no idea if I will ever get enough points to matter, but I’ll at least try!
4. Picked up “Mirror Mirror” by Gregory MaGuire from Buy Nothing group. One of my NY goals is to read (or audio) more books this year and I loved his Wicked series. This one will be next up after I finish “Killers of the Flower Moon” (library book).
5. Yesterday, I ran errands with the Beau and we brought coffee from home. This keeps us from Dunkin’ Donut temptation. All of my coffee thermoses are Contigo brand and all were thrifted through the years.

Happy New Year!


Katy December 30, 2023 at 4:41 pm

Okay, I need an update when you drink your fermented white pine soda!


A. Marie December 30, 2023 at 4:53 pm

In my local region of the Jane Austen Society of North America, we are constantly on the lookout for variations on spruce beer (mentioned in JA’s novel Emma, and beloved by JA herself and her housemate Martha Lloyd). So I look forward to your report on the fermented pine soda.


Selena December 30, 2023 at 7:43 pm

Let us know if your take on Killers of the Flower Moon. I read a multi-part “article” on Bloomberg about it. I will *never* watch or buy anything about/from the Pioneer Woman. I’m sure the movie and book are good but instead of being enjoyable, I know it will royally p^ss me off. IMHO greed will kill the earth.


Jill A December 31, 2023 at 6:52 am

I’m also interested in hearing about this pine soda.


Selena December 30, 2023 at 7:44 pm

Let us know *your take* – why I typed if is beyond me.


Teri December 30, 2023 at 10:58 pm

I read the book and it was eye-opening and sad. I don’t understand your reference to the Pioneer Woman.


Bee December 31, 2023 at 6:38 pm

The Drummond family allegedly acquired a large portion of their land holdings from the Osage people. The family’s business practices – 4 generations ago— are not considered to be ethical. This activities placed the family in the top 100 landowners in the country in the 1920s.


Gina in NY January 2, 2024 at 2:13 pm

I had no idea of the connection between PW and the Osage land grab (and murders)! Thank you for that information! I am about half way with book and I agree it is sad and eye-opening.


twf January 1, 2024 at 10:05 am

All this time I thought it was pretty cool that your mom was going to sport Doc Marti s around town! Well, Uggs are warmer and more comfy so probably would’ve been my choice too. Happy New Year!


Katy January 1, 2024 at 12:43 pm

Yeah, she’s not a “cool shoes” kind of mom.


Ashley Bananas January 2, 2024 at 4:29 am

Not wasting food is so simple yet so smart. Kudos that you work hard to not waste. We’ve been eating in a lot lately. I’ve also been packing a lunch box for when I go Door Dashing to avoid eating out or buying drinks.

And totally chuckled at your mom thinking you were getting her Doc Martins for Xmas.

Happy New Year!!


Katy January 3, 2024 at 11:47 am

She was horrified.


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