What Are Your Favorite Frugal Tricks?

by Katy on February 9, 2012 · 97 comments

One thing I love about frugality, is that I never stop learning new tricks. (Using a pastry brush to season my cast iron pans with oil instead of paper towels? Duh!)

But what about you? What are your  favorite frugal tricks?

Please share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 97 comments… read them below or add one }

Elspeth @ paper armour February 9, 2012 at 8:55 am

Keeping a favorite mug at work along with some cream in the break-room fridge. It makes the office coffee enjoyable and eliminates the temptation to run out for expensive coffee across the street.

Also, making my own cleaning supplies!! That saves us so much money.


Katy February 9, 2012 at 9:01 am

Funny. It’s hardly ever cleaning that keeps my cleaning costs down. 😉



Megg February 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

I haven’t tried yet, but I’m soon going to attempt to make my own laundry detergent!


Elspeth @ paper armour February 10, 2012 at 6:54 am

That helps too. 😉


Rebecca B. A. R. February 9, 2012 at 8:58 am

This may seem silly or even weird, but I have found that when I use toilet paper after going to the bathroom, that how much I take off the roll is more habit, not due to the thickness (how many plies or layers there are) of the toilet paper. I usually go around my hand 3-4 times. Honestly, how many people think about how much they are taking off the roll each time they get toilet paper. By realizing this, I’ve gone to single-ply toilet paper so that it takes me a lot longer to go through a roll than if it were 2-ply or more. Single-ply toilet paper actually has as many sheets on it as a 2-ply roll does, b/c they want it to be the same size (diameter) of more-ply rolls. The only difference is, since it is single-ply, I usually use less, just out of habit, therefore saving me money! (BTW, I get just as clean down there, and my hands stay just as clean, too!)


Ma February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

I just discovered this too, good tip!


Mary February 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

I do lots of cooking on the weekends so that meals are easy during the work week & that also gives me lunches for work. It doesn’t take that much time just a little planning. The quality of our meals is better and I’m saving money too.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land February 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

If you have an old printer, you can buy ink at thrift stores. You can use a “thrifty font” that takes less ink. Here’s a post I wrote a while back about some pretty OCD ways to save money on ink: http://adventuresinthriftland.blogspot.com/2010/11/some-crazy-frugal-printer-ink-saving.html


Linda February 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm

When tractor feed paper became obsolete it began to show up at thrift stores CHEAP. I bought 2500 sheets of paper for 99 cents. sure its not high quality paper but it works for a lot of my needs and I have better paper for when i do need it.
I just tore the tractor feed edge off while I was watching TV.
I also found a ream of 17X 11 paper for a dollar I have a good quality paper cutter, so for the price of my time to chop it in half I got 2 reams for 99cents.


Jackie February 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

I replace chicken with chickpeas in casserole recipes.


elizabeth February 9, 2012 at 9:59 am

Making my own laundry soap and liquid hand soap saves an amazing amount of money. For me the laundry soap costs about $.05 a load, and its easy. We also get bags of those square terry cloth shop rags that you get in the automotive department and wind those around the paper towel roll. This satisfies my bad habit of reaching for something to quickly dry my hands on like I used to do with paper towels.

Katy, your idea about the pastry brush is fabulous. I use small pieces of old rags to grease up my pans but the pastry brush is even better.


Dogs or Dollars February 9, 2012 at 10:07 am

I’m torn here, what my best tip? Laundry soap? Leftovers? Never saying no to something offered? I don’t tend to pay attention to the savings of individual activities, as much as just my overall day to day.

However, Im looking forward to seeing the tips roll in. 😉


astrid February 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

I loved the smell of Murphy’s oil soap for my wood floors, and was reluctant to give it up. I tried an on-line recipe: 2 tbs doctor bronners, 2 tbs. oil, 2 tbs. rubbing alcohol, 24 oz. h2o. Though it does not smell as good as Murphys, it is amazing at picking up that hard to remove dog hair. I am going to add some scent to it next time.


Mama Minou February 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

I always, always, always take lunch to work (5 days a week), even when there’s not much in the cupboards & I end up with a very “creative” lunch.

I also go around the house turning off lights & unplug everything with a little “vampire” light at night.


Kirsten February 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

@Mama Minou – I totally understand what you mean about “creative” lunches… I wasn’t feeling well last night so dinner was light with no leftovers, meaning today’s lunch is frozen (homemade) waffles and side of broccoli.
Which leads me to one of my favorite frugal tips… you can freeze almost all leftovers…
Didn’t use all of the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes? freeze it! Same goes for broth, beans, greens, tofu, scrap veggies for broth, etc.


Linda February 9, 2012 at 10:53 am

My husband and I eat leftovers for lunch. If we do not eat them all during the week, then Friday nights dinner is leftovers.


Ma February 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

I wash and reuse ziploc bags (within reason). I mostly use these for bread, so they aren’t that dirty to begin with.


Jenny February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

1. When I’m heating up the water to wash dishes, I catch the cold water that runs out first and use it to fill my cat’s water or water my plants. I live in a third floor apartment, so it takes the water a long time to heat and a lot of water would be wasted otherwise.

2. Don’t wash all your clothes everytime you wear them. Underwear and socks should be washed each time, but if you are not very active and it’s not really warm, your clothes are probably not dirty enough to need washing every time you wear them, especially if you wear more than one layer. This will save you money both on the energy from the washer and dryer (or change at the laundromat) and less wear and tear on your clothes.


Katy @ Purposely Frugal February 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I wear my jeans and pajamas multiple days before washing. Everything else I wear only once.


Alyssa February 10, 2012 at 8:07 am

I try to not wash my clothes each time. I wear jeans 5-6 times at least before I wash them. However, I live in Texas, and I’m also hot-natured, so I sweat. So unfortunately, a lot of my clothes have to be washed each time so I don’t have sweat/deodorant stains. Charming, I know.


Linda February 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

I have a few things. I hardly ever use paper towels. I have rags to clean and rags to pick up messes. They all go into the wash and outside on the line. My mother will occasionally bring me some paper towels because her poor grandchildren don’t have them. They last forever in my house.

I never buy sponges. I use washclothes for washing dishes and cleaning the bathrooms (I have separate ones for different uses). They also go into the wash daily.

I take a to go cup with me when I head out in the car with either iced coffee or hot tea. This keeps me from going through a drivethru for some yummy, expensive and high calorie iced mocha.

I freeze chopped onions and sliced peppers and put them in bags in the freezer. This step make sure the onions and peppers don’t go bad and saves me a step in food prep.

I always buy a low costs steak or roast and have the butcher grind it for ground beef. I get leaner ground beef and I know it’s fresh.

When my money is gone for the week, I am done spending. If I have extra money at the end of the week, it goes towards my savings for a new chair.


AnnW February 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Having the butcher grind your own “chop meat” as we say in the east, is probably saving you money by protecting your family’s health. No one ever died from butcher meat. It is always from highly processed frozen patties. Kudos to you.


Carolyn February 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

As a professional organizer I have to add being organized and very aware of my consumption habits. I know what we have and can find what we need in our home.


Ellie February 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

-For a facial mask, I use the recipe of a packet of clear gelatin, 1 egg yoke, tb of local honey and 1/8c fresh lemon or lime juice. It will produce enough for about 6 facial masks at a cost of 75¢. Freezes well too.
-I’ve also read you can make hair gel with a packet of clear gelatin and a little water. I’m not out of the regular stuff yet.
-Lastly, I use EVOO as a facial moisturizer. It’s so great.
Total Savings:


Melissa February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I make a facial cleanser out of half olive oil and half castor oil and it is amazing! (Learned about it online, of course.)


michelle February 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

i use coconut oil for moisturizer, is smells so great and soaks in faster than evoo, and i jar lasts forever and ever. I like it for my hair too, just have to use a tiny bit for shine anf frizz!


Lisa February 9, 2012 at 11:06 am

Take a “shirt tail” bath (a.k.a. a sponge bath) instead of a regular bath or shower on occasion. Chances are that you aren’t dirty enough to warrant the water it takes for a full bath every day. Also, ditch the commercial shampoos and cream rinses. Baking soda and ACV do an excellent job and are better for your hair.


Maren February 9, 2012 at 11:10 am

I do a lot of the things that everyone else mentioned- homemade cleaning supplies, no paper towels, eating leftovers, using coconut oil as moisturizer, etc. A couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

1. No TV. By that I mean no cable or antenna. We have a television and we use it for DVDs and Netflix streaming only. Netflix streaming is our biggest entertainment splurge at 8 bucks a month.

2. LIBRARY! All of the books I read, DVDs I watch, and music I listen to comes from the library. Also we go there to play and socialize instead of somewhere we’d have to pay.

3. I know thrift shopping is an obvious one but it is still worth mentioning. I heard someone the other day say “This t-shirt was only 10 bucks- how can you lose?” and my (unspoken) reaction was “TEN WHOLE DOLLARS?…FOR A SHIRT???”


Alyssa February 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

I’ve always been a thrift store gal. My family and I would spend Sunday afternoons thrifting (which, on a side note, was a bad start to shopping habits. Luckily, I’ve changed my ways and my dad is learning, too). I love thrift stores. Some of my favorite shirts are from Goodwill and only cost me $3. I bought two dresses for $8 each and wore them both over the holidays. Got TONS of compliments on them, and they’re good brands so I know they’ll last awhile.

Whenever I need my shopping fix (again, working on not needing a “fix” at all), I try to go to Goodwill or other thrift stores. What could be a $100 shopping spree ends up being less than $20.


Hannah February 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

I live in a “dry” cabin, meaning I don’t have running water. The sheer need to haul my own heavy water for cooking/cleaning/the dogs/etc. means I’m much more concerned about how my water gets used! Any extra water from drained beans, almost empty glasses, etc. gets put in the dog bowls or waters the plants.

I’ve also switched over from canned goods to dry goods, and am valiantly learning to cook beans properly. Making my own bread will eventually add up in savings, too, especially when considering how much plastic I won’t be buying.

I fully agree with the apple cider vinegar for a hair rinse. It’s awesome, and the vinegar scent disappears as soon as your hair is dry.


EcoCatLady February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Wow! Now that’s impressive! Not sure I’d be willing to haul water!

For cooking dried beans, I’ve found that by far the easiest method is the crock pot. Some people say you should either soak or brine them first (bring them to a boil, then let them soak in either water with either a bit of baking soda or salt – then rinse and change water before cooking) and while that does reduce the cooking time a bit and make them less… um… gassy, I don’t generally bother. I just rinse them, dump them in the crock pot, cover it with a thick towel (to conserve the heat) and forget them for 8-9 hours. They always come out perfect! But whatever you do, don’t add any salt or tomatoes to the water while cooking or else you’ll end up with tough beans that will NEVER get soft!

Oh… and I use citric acid instead of vinegar for my hair rinse. There’s no smell, and you can buy enough for 5 years for about $10.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I love a pressure cooker for beans! But whatever method, if you’re cooking them instead of buying canned, you’re doing well!


EcoCatLady February 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Ha! I fear I don’t have the pressure cooker gene. I have tried over, and over, and OVER, but there’s just something about not being able to see in that reeks havoc with my psyche.

I’ve also killed one in dramatic fashion. Word to the wise… if it stops making noise something is WRONG! We still refer to it as “the great pea soup disaster of 2001.” The lead safety plug blew and shot pea soup over the entire kitchen. Literally had to scrub every square inch. We actually had to replace the stove because somehow it got into the controls and the oven never worked after that.

Repeat after me… “Owaaa…” “Tajer….” “Kiammmm….”



Angie February 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I always cook my dried beans in the crock pot. Rinse beans, add a little oil of your choice in the bottom, your favorite spices, mix well with dried beans, cover completely with water, turn on low and 8 hours later, perfectly cooked beans.

Katy February 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I blew out my pressure cooker as well. 🙁


EcoCatLady February 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Katy – You have NO idea how much better it makes me feel to know I’m not the only person who’s done this!

BTW – just realized it’s supposed to be “wreaks havoc” not “reeks havoc” – but who says havoc doesn’t smell bad!

Michele February 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

I can’t believe I never thought of a towel around the crockpot to conserve heat, I almost smacked myself in the forhead for that one. I do thaw frozen veggies by setting them next to the crockpot.


Katy February 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

I thaw my olive oil salad dressing by setting it on the stove while dinner is cooking, and have been known to set it on the rice cooker as well!



EcoCatLady February 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm

The only problem is that if you’re cooking anything that smells, like soup or something other than just plain beans, the smell will permeate the towel and it requires several washings to get it clean again. So it’s best to designate one exclusively for this purpose! I actually made a little round “pillow” from fabric scraps that works really well.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi February 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

My answer is simple: minimalism. I just don’t buy stuff. My house may be sparse, but I’m not spending money on random stuff just to have decor or be fashionable. Simply put, I rarely spend a dime on a non-necessity item, not even from a thrift store.


Ann February 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Me too! My hubby and I are fiftyish now and find that we just don’t need “stuff”. We downsized from a 4BR 3B condo, to a 2BR apt and donated a truckload to the Humane Society, and sold “stuff” on E-Bay, gave more as Christmas gifts (I have a thrifty family), and are well on our way to being minimalistic which we love. It feels good to be able to just say no to spending.


Pollyanna February 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

This is terrific — it’s the path I am trying to get on/stay on myself — kids are grown and on their own, am trying to downsize, get rid of the crap…it certainly makes me think twice about bringing anything else into the house.


Margaret February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I keep a large ziplock bag in my freezer and whenever I am making dinner and I have onion ends, mushroom stems, tomato parts, carrot parts or extra garlic, I toss it in the bag. I also save any and all chicken and turkey bones. When my freezer starts to get crammed with scraps, I make chicken stock. Let me tell you it makes the *best* soups and it is virtually free.


EcoCatLady February 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Totally agree! I actually got into stock making because I’m allergic to celery and it’s in just about every pre-made stock I’ve ever seen. It’s SOOO wonderful to have healthy, allergen free stock on hand and the fact that’s it’s virtually free makes it all the better!


Melinda February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm

One little thing I do is wash ziploc bags. When we first got married, my poor husband couldn’t figure out why I was hanging ziploc bags on utensils in the dishdrainer! He thought I was nuts, but I rarely have to buy them. (I use them for freezing veggies) My mom always washed hers, so I just assumed everyone did 🙂 We also installed a wood burning stove in our house, so our primary heat source is wood instead of the super expensive propane. The stove was free, too 🙂 We also do the usual, like NOT using paper towels, or disposable utensils and plates.


Katy February 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I clothespin clip my drying bags on a cupboard door handle that’s above a heating grate. It might look nutty, but I can’t remember the last time I bought Ziploc bags!



Marla February 10, 2012 at 7:08 am

I have a ziploc dryer: a flat piece of driftwood, with five poles of driftwood pounded into it—-it looks like the head of a heavy duty rake, made of (free!!) driftwood. It stands on my drainer and when I wash out a bag, I put it on one of the prongs so that it is standing straight up until it dries.


Kim February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Katy-love your blog but rarely post a comment. Wish you didn’t live 3,00 miles away or we could share a cup of tea (purchased with a coupon, of course!!)Here’s my faves;

-making morning coffee at home
-use a credit card that allows me to earn cash back (always pay it off in its entirety each month, of course!
-only drink water (filtered tap), OJ, and milk at home. Avoid juice boxes, bottled sodas
-avoid places like Target (it’s like a drug…)
-buy greeting cards in the Dollar Store ($0.50 each)
-automatic thermostat (we keep the house cold during the day and
warm it up 30 minutes before arriving home at night)
-always pack work and school lunches
-avoid using/buying paper cups/plates/disposable plasticware and napkins. We use cloth napkins and older towels to soak up spills.
-remove myself from the mindset that I need to have “what everyone else has”
-never, never lease a car.
-have at least 2 meatless meals per week. Rice and beans with a salad is a favorite in our house.
-appreciate experiences and people, not stuff. Life is short and the ones you love are too valuable to take for granted. Focus on them, not things. Nothing makes me happier on a weekend day than packing a snack, walking to the playground, stopping by the library, and then heading home to make a nice dinner with my husband. Add a nice fire and a glass of wine or a beer as a little treat.


Katy February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm

These are great, thanks!

And I would love to share a cup of tea with you! (It just might get cold after traveling 3000 miles.) 😉



Claudia February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

So many good ones listed!

Always do a search for a coupon or promotional code before buying something online. Check to see if local purveyors will match prices.

If buying new, buy from trusted purveyors with good return policies, and stay on top of those policies. If you buy something, try it on or open it up soon, so that you can return it within the right window of time if it doesn’t fit or is defective. This is a particularly good tip for reforming shoppers; if you frequently find yourself with buyers’ remorse, you should start trying to return things for your money back. Eventually, the hassle will start to deter you from buying things you’re not sure of.

Loan things to your friends, and ask your friends if you can borrow things! This is particularly good for stuff you don’t use every day, such as entertaining supplies like specialty cookware, cooking appliances, tablecloths, etc., and for baby gear. I’ve loaned out several baby-gear items to friends and have asked for them to be returned when done so they’ll be ready for additional children in the family.

My children absolutely love to draw and would go through a lot of paper, so I use the reverse side of paper used for work drafts that would be going into the recycling bin anyway.

If there’s something you have your heart set on, don’t settle for a cheaper, lesser-quality item unless you’re absolutely SURE it will accomplish the same thing and make you just as happy. You’re better off waiting and checking thrift shops for the real thing, or, once in a while, even biting the bullet and splurging on what you really want if it will last a long time.


EcoCatLady February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I agree these are all great ideas, and do most of them myself. Here are a few things I would add…

1) While it’s great to stay on top of all of the little things, making frugal choices about the “big ticket” items in life can make a profound difference in how much money you need. For example, when I bought a house, I chose a small, cheap house in a working class neighborhood. Result, I live walking distance to pretty much everything I need, my mortgage payments are only $450/month – and it should be paid off completely next year, my utilities are under $100/month – and that’s without really trying to be frugal in the utilities department.

2) Build a “Local life.” I’m not necessarily talking about supporting local farmers and businesses, although that’s great too… What I mean is try to build a life that doesn’t require you to go very far from home. This means things like working close to where you live so you don’t have to commute, running errands on foot or bike, enjoying vacations at home rather than traveling, and just generally occupying the space where you live. Following these principles I’ve been able to keep the same car for 22 years (and it only has 85K miles on it), I get lots of free and easy exercise, and instead of taking expensive trips and vacation, I’ve concentrated my resources on building a life that I don’t feel the desire to get away from.

3) Maintain a wish list. When you think you want or need a thing, don’t just go out and get it… put it on a list and ruminate about it for a while. As a rule, I try to make myself think about it for at least a month… and more often than not, by that time I’ve either decided that I don’t really want it, or have found some way to make do nicely without it, or have found one for free on FreeCycle. There are exceptions, of course, for things that are true emergencies, but following this rule really helps me to reduce, if not eliminate impulse spending.

OK… those are my big three! Following those principles (along with some other lifestyle stuff) I was able to retire from the working world 5 years ago at age 39.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Excellent! I love that you go beyond just giving a “tip” and go for the attitude change.


Ellie (#2!) February 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm

(#2 ’cause there’s apparently another Ellie further upthread!)

I’ll just tack on to EcoCatLady, because for me, the “big ticket” stuff is also the biggest thing.

I do try to stay on top of the small things others mentioned (bring my own coffee/tea with me, freeze leftovers, etc.), but I think my biggest “frugality” is to have chosen an overall lifestyle that just requires less money and less temptation for acquisition.

My husband and I highly educated and had a lot of opportunities – basically, we could have chosen the career “fast track” if we wanted too. I realize this is not an option for everyone – but it was for us, and a lot of people we went to school with have “big deal” careers and make lots of money – that was their choice. But we both chose careers in fields that pay less but which give us more personal time – and which also don’t require fancy wardrobes, or other kinds of expensive self-presentation at work.

Because we work lower-stress jobs with shorter hours, we have time to cook, and energy to do lots of the “frugal” – but fun! – things, like volunteer, garden, attend free and low-cost events in our local area, and repair and restore things. We bought a smaller, cheaper house in a working class neighborhood even though we could have qualified for a larger mortgage, so we’re spending less on housing than the bank told us we can “afford”. (We also chose to forgo an expensive wedding, and use the money that my parents would have spent on a down payment instead – I really never had any interest in a wedding, and the boost to the down payment got us a super-low interest rate.) We choose to socialize with people who aren’t overly materialistic and who don’t all try to “keep up with the Joneses”.

In other words, we just “downsized” our lives from the get-go. By setting up our whole lifestyle to be more relaxed and slower paced, it became more “frugal” by default – the little things followed from the big choices.


EcoCatLady February 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

Frugal by default. I love it!


Cate February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

When a plastic squeeze or pump bottle of lotion is “empty,” I cut it open. There’s usually at least 1/4 cup of lotion left in there, which I transfer to a small Mason jar with a lid until it’s used up. I’ve put off buying new lotion for literally weeks by doing this, even though I do feel like kind of a nut when I’m taking scissors to my bottle hand cream.


Katy February 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I do this as well, and I always feel so very clever. Although, my lotion starts to dry out after a couple of weeks.



Diane C February 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Seriously? You mean you don’t store it in a zippy bag that’s been washed-so many-times-you-don’t-trust-it-for-food-use-anymore-but-it’s-too-good-to-throw-out-yet?? Horrors!


Robin February 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I keep a spreadsheet on my computer of all of the foods I have in the second freezer (meals or meal fixings). That way when I do a weekly menu, I can peruse the list and make sure to use some of the freezer food and this way I won’t forget what’s in there!


Katy February 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Wow, you’re a thousand times more organized than I am!



Indigo February 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

1. Rethink what a material can be used for. From an old tea tin becoming a vintage inspired pencil holder to cutting Masonite into tiles, staining and finishing it to redo the floor with them, to combining two vintage night stands with some house molding a board, and a bit of paint to make a fancy little entertainment center for my free tv. Not creative? No excuse with the internet.

2. Everything is an investment. Not only do I save money on food by cooking at home from scratch, I save on medical bills since what we eat has huge effects on health. My home made cleaning products don’t aggravate my sinus’s and lungs. Doing my own yard work and having two wonderful dogs beats a gym membership any day.

3. Barter and Trade with friends. I have a friend who likes to make soap, another who is more experienced in plumbing than I. We trade jobs or things, or just loan each other tools.

4. Pay yourself first. The first thing I do with any paycheck or unexpected funds is pay into my savings a set amount. If at the end of the month I have extra, that goes in saving too. Even if it is just a little bit it adds up and helps you weather storms and jump on unexpected opportunities.


Jennifer February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Maybe the most used item in my kitchen is my rubber spatula. I use that baby to get every last bit of food out of peanut butter jars, jam jars, mixing bowls, whatever.


Katy @ Purposely Frugal February 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

There’s so many things I could say, but many are already said! So I’ll just stick with this one (you using a pastry brush made me think of it). One time my sister-in-law and bro-in-law were at our house we were going to have cheese cake and I realized I didn’t have one of those pie-server things, so they suggested we use our triangular metal cheese slicer. It worked great and we still use it for that to this day! It’s nice that we haven’t had to purchase another kitchen utensil and that I have one less utensil cluttering up my kitchen!

PS- I like your name! 🙂


Katy February 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I like yours as well!



Samantha February 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

The biggest frugal shift for my family has just been PATIENCE. We don’t buy anything on impulse any more, every single little thing has to be put on a list, if it’s not on there, we wait. We’ve found that 90% of the things we think we need in the moment can be substituted with something else. Making do has saved us thousands of dollars.


Bauunny February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Great ideas already listed above. I would add having a vegetable garden in the spring/summer and getting perennial cuttings from friends for flower gardens. Seldom eating out or doing take-out, packing lunches, thrift shopping and occasional coupling, the library (!), hand washing/ironing vs. dry cleaning when possible, going to wonderful plays that the local high schools perform, leaving the hairdresser with unstyled/ wet hair (if I am just going home afterwards) and simplifying /decluttering so I know what I have and where it is located so I don’t have to buy excess and cooking/baking “from scratch”.


Katy February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Funny. I go to a hairdresser that doesn’t wash my hair, so I save on the opposite end of the haircut.



Practical Parsimony February 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Yardsale supplies:
I use canning jars for lots of storage: actually canning; storage of beans, pasta, rice, etc. ; storing lids in a gallon jar. Last week I bought two Kerr canning jars at a yard sale. These may not be stable/strong glass and will use them just for storage, not for water bath or pressure cooker. Glass canning jars that have been clinked together may be weakened. Okay, if I had no more jars, the two Kerr I bought would be used for actual canning. I always intend to keep yardsale jars separate and forget.


Practical Parsimony February 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm

ooops, forgot to say each jar was a quarter.


Linda February 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Goodwill sells all sizes of mason jars for 20 cents, I’m patiently accumulating a supply of half pint jars so I can put fruits & vegies up in individual servings size


Jo February 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm

This might sound funny after all the great tips other people have left, but here’s my tip anyway – I always save the elastics, string and twist ties that come into my house as part of something else. Elastics come on broccoli and lettuce. I use the thick ones to bundle my rolled coins in groups of five, the way my bank likes them. Twist ties come on everything from Barbies to tools. I also save small lengths of ribbon, yarn, artificial flowers, beads, buttons – anything that can be used in crafts and sewing – instead of buying all supplies new.

I think rather than the actual savings on these things, which wouldn’t be very much, it’s more indicative of a general attitude of Katy’s quotation “use it up, wear it out” that extends to many other areas such as household items and clothing where the savings are larger.


hippierunner February 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I eat mostly vegan and have saved so much money by making my own faux-meat (seitan) recently. It’s embarrassing how I’d pay like $5 for a few servings and now I make a TON more for a fraction of the price; it’s really easy to make! Another thing-I’m in college and I’m baffled when I show up to class and see that everyone has the ‘required’ textbook. Especially when it’s just an anthology of English Lit, meaning the same stories can be found online/in the lib for free! But I guess we can’t all be brilliant non-consumers, right? 😉


Katy February 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Good for you, textbooks are a scam!



Linda February 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm

older editions most often have 99% of the information that the newest edition does & you can get them CHEAP!!!


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi February 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm

The bad thing about textbooks (other than the price) is that you don’t know if the tests come out of the textbook or not. Some prof’s follow the text, others don’t. I have bought textbooks that were never opened, but there were also textbooks that I would have failed a class without. I found the best of both worlds by purchasing textbooks (when possible) off Half.com, etc. and just resold for the amount I paid (or more) when the class was done.


That Other Jean February 9, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I make my own foam soap for use at the bathroom sink. I bought a single bottle of foam soap, and have refilled it many times from a huge bottle of Dr. Bronner’s. It only takes about an ounce of liquid soap–the rest of the bottle is filled with warm water and shaken, and it makes foam soap every bit as nice as the commercial stuff. Plus it isn’t anti-bacterial, like most commercial foam soap, so I’m not contributing to the evolution of superbacteria.


John Crabtree February 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm

make starter pots for plants that will be transferred to gardens, planters and pots out of old newspaper, you can us an old doorknob or anything rounded about that size as a form to wrap the paper around, then tape the bottom, cut it about 3 inches high, fill with soil and seeds or even little plants. Bigger starter pots from bigger form and cutting the top a little higher up. You can buy little wooden forms to do this too, Burpee has one, not too expensive. Nice thing is, you just plant in the planters and thereby compost the newspaper. (TIP… don’t over-water, the planters will start to break down)


EcoCatLady February 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

That’s a FABULOUS idea! I have a few dozen black plastic pots that I’ve been stringing along for about 10 years now, but they’re starting to get worn out beyond repair. I may have to give this a try. Do you just use one layer of paper or more?


Marla February 10, 2012 at 7:13 am

You can also use toilet paper rolls. We save them all year so every spring I have a ton of seed starting pots that decompose in the soil.


Lorien February 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm

1. I don’t own a car so never worry about the mortgage, insurance, gas or anything. I just walk or take a bus. In a pinch, I tend to catch a cab, but I’m trying to get ready earlier so I may have enough time for a bus would work.

2. It takes about 20 min walk to go to my office. Recently I’m trying to make a habit of having a lunch at home, so I can excercize a little bit(total 40 min walk is not so bad) while I can save my lunch money.

3. I make my own coffee with some decent Italian blends. It costs more than nothing but still much cheaper than StarBucks. (I never go StarBucks, anyway.) As an incorrigible coffeeholic, I just can’t endure a bad cup of coffee. So that’s the deal.

4. I don’t use bottles of hair shampoo or bodywash. I just use a good-ol’ bar soap(Kiss My Face offers very nice and pure Olive oil soap for good price) to wash my face, hair and body. A bar goes forever and it makes my skin and hair feel so smooth.

5. I always line dry my clothes and hand-wash my underwears. In that way, fabrics last longer and I can be proud of myself not adding huge amount of CO2 to the atmosphere.

6. I use an empty film case for keeping coins. I never buy those fancy purses or bags. I don’t wear fir or leather. So basically I just don’t pay attention to the pricy outfits or accessories.

These things have helped me to pay off half of my house mortgage in 4 years. As a single mom of an 8-year-old-boy with absolutely NO upkeeping payment or whatsoever from the ex, I’ve been struggling to make ends meet.

Please be gentle to the horrible mistakes in my English, since it’s not my native languge 🙂


Katy February 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Very impressive, great job!

And your English is excellent. 😀



James Bruce February 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

1. Late night supermarket shopping – our local Tescos discounts french loaves and packs of buns to 7 pence each, and the chickens love fluffy bread so we get them some too! Packs of salad, enough for 2 people @ 10 pence; then the usual discounted meat and random freezable goods. My wife loves sorting through all the food bargains.

2. Grow as much veg produce as we can, and we just got an allotment so this year will be truly bountiful.

3. Brew my own beer and wine – wine costs about £1/bottle this way if done from a pack, compared to £4/bottle for the cheapest supermarket stuff. Can cost even less if we use our own fruit – family regular brings over their inedible apples, and we combine that with blackberries for a lovely apple+blackberry wine 😉


Katy February 10, 2012 at 7:16 am

It’s enough to make me move to England! And hooray for Tesco for not just tossing their day-old bread.



Robin February 10, 2012 at 6:19 am

Oh my gosh, that’s brillant! Why didn’t I think of that?? I have a pan to season tonight!

You are such an inspiration Katy — thanks for ALL that you do and share!

Cary, NC


Katy February 10, 2012 at 7:14 am

Thank you, but of course that idea was from a NCA reader, so it’s really you readers to be thankful for!



Jennifer February 10, 2012 at 8:11 am

I agree with Samantha, patience is an under rated weapon of the frugal. So many times we have waited to buy the things that we need and sometimes want and you know what happens so many times……We end up getting the item for free or very deeply discounted. I personally feel like it is a cosmic reward for being wise spenders.

Also I like to pop in the grocery in the morning right after dropping the kids at school and findin the discounts before they are snatched up. Today I found LOTS of sugar snap peas for half off as they were nearing their use by date. They were perfect. And they keep me from eating chocolate….more savings!!


Marianne February 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

A day late but probably a dollar saved. 😉
-clean with rags and homemade cleaner
-hand towels instead of paper towels
-start any type or size garden
-blanch and freeze summer crop for veggies throughout winter
-coconut oil instead of hair products
-gallon jug of conditioner from Sally’s beauty supply that doubles as lotion for $5.
-water water water
-soda stream for the hubby
-bring a drink and a piece of fruit with you whenever you go somewhere so you dont have to stop for a snack
-identify wants vs needs. Wants go on a list so people will have ideas for your bday or Xmas. Needs, try to get free from Craigslist or free cycle, then hit up yard sales and thrift stores.
-I can understand how this next one may seem scary but trust me is great. Go minimal. Less items means less time and money storing, cleaning, and repairing. You also know what you have so you don’t end up with multiples.
-library for all book and movie rentals
-reading this blog has been the best place for frugal advice!


Katy February 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

Great tips, thanks!



Katy February 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

Ooh . . . I just thought of a great tip.

Instead of shelling out $15 for a BPA reusable water bottle, I use the glass bottles from Snapple or Tazo tea. My kids use them for school lunches, and they’re actually super sturdy, and we’ve never broken one. Also, the glass imparts no flavor, so the water tastes better than from a stainless steel or aluminum bottle.

These can be bought for a buck or so, or can be gleaned from friends who buy flavored drinks.



Katy February 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

Also, it’s less heart breaking if we lose one.



Jenny February 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

OK, you guys saved me $20. I’m having book club at my house tonight and several of the women live in much nicer houses so I was feeling bad about my fraying rug inside the front door. About to buy a new one this morning! But the comments about patience made me realize I can switch my rugs around for tonight, hiding the frayed one upstairs in a room with a closed door and putting a nice one inside the front door. That will give me time to either cut down and resew the edges of the frayed one or wait and buy a new one at Sally Ann. Thanks!


Katy February 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

Sometimes, a frayed rug can be quite beautiful. It has history. All those old British estates are full of fraying rugs and faded furniture, and the effect is sooo beautiful!



OnTheGrind February 10, 2012 at 10:41 am

I use a dual-flush retrofit flusher on my toilets to save water with each flush. Low-flow shower heads help as well. We buy multi-surface cleaners (like Simple Green) and glass cleaners by the gallon. We mix our own spray bottles. Never buy bottled water. Use a chest freezer with a temp controller to serve as an extra fridge to buy items in bulk. It can easily be switched back to operate as a freezer. Use a double-edge razor to save money on cartridge razors. Cartridges are way expensive.


Rebecca B. A. R. February 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I also just began putting a bucket in the bathtub to catch all the water from when it is warming up and where is spurts out the little extra at the end. It gives me two extra “flushes” for the toilet, and one of my cats (Clyde) loves drinking out of the bucket instead of their water bowl!


Heidi February 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

1. Around the holidays, my local grocery store often has ham for .99/lb. I’ll buy a few and put them in the freezer. I get a TON of leftovers from a ham, great for omelets, sandwiches, etc. The following day, I take the bone and any leftover meat, and use it for a split pea soup in the crockpot. (A bag of dried peas is what, $0.89?) My family always knows that the day after ham, we’ll be having pea soup. Two delicious meals with plenty of leftovers. Really good value for my money.

2. I have muesli cereal every day. I get a Bob’s Red Mill cereal which I love and although it’s a bit pricey, I usually get it for free off of credit card points from my Amazon credit card. However, now I’m making my own. Wish I’d done this sooner, duh. I got a store brand container, large size, of rolled oats, for $2.79. I haven’t priced out the rest of the ingredients but so far it looks like it’s going to be WAY cheaper. I’ll save my credit card points for something else.


lilprincess February 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Heated blankets are about a tenth the price of space heaters.
Tofu, nuff said.
Charge cell phones in your car.
Hang wet towle over a fan for cool breeze, (assuming low humidity area, it is like a swamp cooler effect.)
Wearing wet hemp jewlery on neck, ankles, and wrists is very cooling. When cooking from recipes, chek Google for ways to substitute for ingredients you don’t already buy.
Use your phone Snap pics of your pantry/fridge for reference while shopping. Pics of price tags are helpfull for comrparison shopping. Solar shower 10 bucks at wall mart.ok that one is a little extreme.
Put chives in a cup of water, they will grow faster than you can use them.
I got more ill think of later. Ps home canning(exept jellie and jam) is quite dangerous. Prob not worth it. Pickling is a lot safer though.


Jill February 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I love all these ideas! As for canning, it really isn’t dangerous if you follow the directions in the current Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration. I’ve been canning over 25 years and have never had a mishap. Another excellent guide is Growing and Canning Your Own Food by Jackie Clay, a wonderful contributor to the Backwoods Home Magazine. As we grow a lot of our own food, I find canning (and freezing) quite worthwhile and satisfying.


Katy February 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I made two (maybe three) batches of jam, applesauce, as well as pickles last year and although I was kind of intimidated by the process, I did just fine.



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