Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Saving money with frugal principles: Part 1 – Use it up

Frugality is about more than just saving money. Since I started reading and writing about it, I’ve seen more definitions of frugality than I thought could possibly exist. Frugality has to do with thrift, with efficiency, with stewardship. Frugality helps the environment, it saves money, it saves time. Frugality makes our lives simpler, happier, and more worthwhile. Sounds like something I want more of in my life. My money life has been going in so many different directions lately, and I want to focus in this idea of less, this idea of making everything simpler.

So how do I go about being more frugal?

The most basic frugal principles, according to The Complete Tightwad Gazetteare “Use it up, use less, make do, or do without.” Each of those things uses the basic principle of “less” and applies it in a different way, so I thought that might be a good place to start thinking about my frugal victories and failures.

Use it up

What it means: Using it up is essentially cutting back on waste. Use food before it expires. Get all the soap out of the bottom of the bottle.

Why it’s frugal: It’s fairly obvious that reducing waste is a frugal thing to do. When you throw out less mayonnaise or cilantro, you save yourself money and make more efficient use of the resources available to you. You also reduce the trash you’re putting into the environment – more from the packaging than from the actual food you throw away – and the environmental impact of the production of the product.

How I’m doing: I made what to many would be a very silly discovery recently: you can take the lid of squeeze bottles of mustard. That might sound really dumb, but I had been balancing bottles on their tops, shaking them for several minutes, practically standing on my own head to get the mustard out of the bottle. Then it occurred to me that I could just take the lid off the bottle and use a knife, like I would with a normal mustard jar. When I did that, I got at least 3 more sandwiches out of a mustard jar than I would have by getting frustrated and throwing it out.

On the other hand, I need to get better at using food before it expires. I have piles of mushy greens and herbs in the bottom of my crisper and science experiment leftovers in the back of my fridge. The food you don’t even eat is the least frugal purchase of all.

My frugal goals: Use food in a timely manner. Plan meals so that food with a likelihood to wilt or go bad is used earlier in the week and more hearty vegetables are saved for later in the week. Buy less of things (like cilantro) that I simply cannot finish before they go bad. Find at least one product – dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste – each week, and see if I can find a way to get just a little bit more out of the bottom of the container.


squire said...

Every thing we do to keep us focused on our goals is always a help.

Sherry said...

It sounds like you looked in my fridge. lol

Great post. Inspires me to think again about those lemons and limes that are on sale for 10 cents apiece..... the last several I bought went bad before I could use them.

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

Why not buy the cilantro, and then freeze the portion you aren't going to use? Google "freezing herbs" or "freezing cilantro" and I'm sure you'd find out just how to do it.

As for the bits and pieces of veggies left in your fridge, there are several good, standard ways to "use it up" when they are getting to that point where you have to use them or throw them out soon.

#1-Fried Rice.
#2-Curry (using a premade sauce such as "vermont curry")
#5 Quiche (use the recipe on my site so you don't have to use 5 eggs! http://frugalupstate.blogspot.com/2006/04/lets-quiche.html)

All of these are forgiving of having a little tiny bit of this and that added. Don't be afraid to improvise. I frequently throw lettuce that is getting ready to go into my curry or fried rice. Once it is cooked down, who can tell the difference between that and any other cooked green? And so what if you only have 3 baby carrots left, chop them up and add them. Or a tablespoon of corn. . .

Oh, and you can always take those little bits and pieces and freeze them in a bag in your freezer until you have enough to do something with!