During the Depression and other hard times in history, frugality was not an option but rather a necessity for survival. Even though I don’t have to be as frugal as my ancestors, it is a habit that keeps me aware of how much I use and waste.
I’d like to share with you a few ways I make a conscious effort to not waste resources in the kitchen. I’m not saying you have to do exactly what I suggest below. Make it work for you. This list is not exhaustive but merely gives you a few ideas for ways to be frugal.
Frugal Kitchen Habits for Food
First, quit wasting food. I’m so guilty of this! I see something on sale and I buy it because it’s a good deal. I have to shush the frugal voice in my head and tell myself “If you aren’t going to eat it, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is.” Buy food that you know will get eaten before it goes bad. Know what these foods are so that when you see a sale on them you can stock up.
My weakness is bent and dent stores. I love finding a good bargain and these are the stores to find them! They sell slightly damaged or expired food at a steep discount. This is where I like to find one or two new food items to try because I know if I don’t care for it, I don’t have a lot invested in it. On the other hand, don’t go stocking up on a weird food item if your family is going to hate it and it will just sit on the shelf because you don’t have the heart to throw it away. [Ask me how I know.]
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Second, stock up when food is on sale. [Again, you are only saving money if you stock up on foods you know your family will eat.] Keep an eye on a couple grocery store fliers. Don’t check too many fliers otherwise the overwhelm will cause you to do nothing. Know what a good sale price is for your food items.
For me, this is butter. Butter is something we go through a ton of! I know that Kwik Trip sells it for $2.99. I have a store card there (that I pay in full every month!) so I get an extra 10% off in-store purchases. I know I can always get my butter there for $2.70. However, a couple times a year they run sales for $1.99 or $2.49 a pound. During these times I fill up my fridge and freezer with butter until I’m out of room. I know we will eat this food. I know we will eat it before it goes bad. Win! Win!
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Third, buy in bulk. Even though my family is small, I still buy a 50 pound bag of flour, 25 pound bag of sugar, 50 pound bag of wheat berries and so on. If you have the space to store it, make a one-time investment in quality totes or five-gallon buckets with lids to keep the extra. When I need more flour, for instance, I pull out my tote and fill up my counter-top container.
Some stores even have bulk bins of foods you can fill yourself. Nuts, oatmeal and lots of other basic staples.
Frugal Kitchen Habits for Resources
Fourth, I re-use disposable items. I learned to do this from my mother and grandmother for sure! Grandma cuts open the cereal bag after it’s empty and
uses it like plastic wrap to cover food. Sometimes she wipes off plastic wrap and re-uses it. She wipes off aluminum foil, folds it and puts it back in the cupboard. Every sour cream, yogurt or whatever container gets washed and put in the Tupperware cupboard to be re-used. Ziploc baggies get washed out and re-used. Plastic ware and plastic cups get rescued from the trash can and washed.
I’m not saying you have to wash and re-use all these things. I pick a few that are easy for me and toss the rest. Sour cream and cottage cheese containers I definitely save. These I use for freezing my corn, berries, cookies and whatever else fits. They are also great for sending food home with someone. It’s a sturdy container but they don’t have to worry about returning it to you.
I wash Ziploc baggies and re-use them. Except if they had raw meat, then I toss them. Foil is easy enough to wipe off and fold up for multiple more uses. I wash out ketchup bottles and put my own homemade syrups and dressings in them. Jam jars or any other jar can be re-used for canning or food storage.
Fifth, fill the oven when it is on. This is one way to maximize the energy being used to heat the oven anyways. When I have a supper that needs to be baked in the oven, I think of what else I can throw in there. Sometimes it’s a few extra potatoes to throw in the fridge for hash browns. During the fall and winter I may have another squash or pumpkin that needs to be cooked up and thrown in the freezer. If you don’t have time to plan extras on the side, simply double or triple your supper recipe and throw the extras in the freezer!
Re-use Before Recycle
Sixth, save your grocery bags. I know some people like their cloth, re-usable grocery bags. I have some but never remember to bring them into the store. I use to try harder when my grocery store gave a five-cent discount for bringing your own bags. Not anymore. And don’t even try to get me to remember to bring in all my bags of bags to those recycle bins.
I use grocery bags for anything and everything. They are trash can liners for all my bathroom and bedroom cans. I always have a couple in my diaper bag because I never know when I have to bring home wet clothes. I cloth diaper so I also use them for soiled diapers. Or throw away disposable pooped diapers in them so they don’t stink up someone’s house! Whenever I go on a trip I put each shoe in its own bag so it doesn’t get my clothes dirty. I also pack a few extra for my dirty clothes. Take a few bags with you swimming so you have something to put wet suits in.
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Seventh, use cloth napkins. Growing up we didn’t have napkins. Once in a while we would get half a paper towel each for a really messy meal. For a more civilized compromise, use cloth. For the truly frugal, you can leave them at the table for multiple uses, but it’s really not much extra laundry to wash them after each meal.
Grab some fun cloth napkins here. Or you can pick up cloth napkins cheap at thrifts stores and garage sales. Otherwise, make them out of old sheets or scraps of fabric.
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What does your frugal look like?
I know some of these ideas sound like piddly things that you spend a few cents on, but it all adds up. And some of these frugal kitchen habits may sound cumbersome. Do what works for you. Find your own little ways to save money and resources. As a homemaker, you may not get a physical pay check for your work, but watching the budget is a great way you can make a monetary contribution to your household.