The Little Things That Add Up

I was thinking the other day, as I puttered around in my kitchen, that I've adapted myself to doing a whole lot of little things to be frugal. I don't even think about it most of the time, because it's become second nature, but I'm sure that all of these seemingly small things add up to save money over the course of the weeks and months.

1) I substitute part water when dairy is called for. I do this whether it's milk, yogurt or kefir, and I will substitute up to 1/2 water. It works just fine in most baking recipes, and we can't even tell! (Thanks Crystal, for the original idea!)

2) I save all of my butter wrappers for greasing bread pans, muffin tins, etc. I simply fold them in half and store them in the door of my fridge. When I'm ready to use them, I just pull one out a few minutes before I need it (in warm weather) or pop it in my pre-heating oven or toaster oven for about 5-10 seconds to soften the butter. Not only do I save butter or oil, but they are so handy for greasing a tin and it saves me needing to use paper towels.

3) When there are ends of a loaf of bread that aren't being eaten, I grind them in my coffee grinder and freeze them for instant bread crumbs (this is especially great if you eat wheat free, as we do, to know that I always have wheat free bread crumbs on hand). I have also had the odd loaf of bread turn out a total dud, and into the bread crumb bag it goes! 🙂

4) Every single bone (beef, chicken, lamb,etc.) in this house is frozen and saved for making bone broths (see link below).

5) I save all onion, carrot and celery scraps and sometimes other
veggies, including onion skins (for that lovely yellow color), and add
them to a ziploc bag in the freezer to be dumped into the pot when I'm making bone broth.

6) I wash all of my ziploc bags, to be re-used again and again. My only exceptions to this are when they rip (obviously), or when they have held raw meat. I wash them in the sink with hot, soapy water, and put them upside down over large cooking utensils (mixing spoons, spatulas, etc.) to air-dry.

7) I'm currently experimenting with spending a little more on sharp, aged cheddar (rather than the mild or medium cheddar or colby I usually buy), to see if I can get by with using less in my recipes, in sandwiches, etc. My theory is that we tend to use larger amounts of cheese due to the mild taste, but would be just as satisfied with less cheese, providing it has that strong, cheesey taste that we love.

What are the little, fugal things you do in the kitchen that add up to keep costs low?

Find more tips for frugal living over at Life as Mom!

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  1. #2 is one that I have not done, but is a great idea. I’ll have to start doing that. We just got a dehydrator so I am hoping to start drying food from our garden, CSA and farmer’s market this summer.

  2. I do most of those except #5! Great tip! (my husband will be so happy I’m saving more “garbage!):-) The little things do add up though, don’t they?

  3. I’m a bit of a germaphobe but I’ve been washing all my ziplocs, including meat ones. I wash them with soap and water (paying attention the the corners and the zip part) and then spray with vinegar/water solution that I use for all my cleaning. I let it sit for a while and then rinse.

  4. Great tips! I do the butter thing too. Something I do is make brown sugar syrup or berry syrup when I have lots of berries on hand. My family eats a LOT of pancakes, french toast and scrapple, so this has saved us a bundle on pricey maple syrup!

  5. These are all great ideas …. I am especially wanting to try #2! And I think you’ll be right about the cheese 🙂

  6. These are great tips! I discovered your blog while visiting I Am Harriet.

    I’m a fan and I’ve subscribed to your blog. I look forward to learning more to help me be the best wife and mother I can be.


  7. Great ideas. I really need to put these into practice.
    Thank you for your sharing heart.


  8. It isnt so much a kitchen thing as it is a food thing. I make my own taco and fajita mixes and store them in canning jars for later use. It isnt much, but a buck here or there makes a difference eventually.

  9. This is a fantastic list! Every little bit helps. I like the bag of veggie scraps in the freezer. I haven’t done that one, but it’s a great idea.

  10. I am going to be making deviled eggs. I have a plastic mustard container with a little bit of mustard left (hardly any at all). I am going to add a little tiny bit of vinegar and shake it up and pour it out of the mustard container and mix it with mayo. Sounds a little odd, I know, but I will be using every last bit of the mustard. Then I can recycle the container! I do that with shampoo, detergent, etc, adding water. I say every penny helps!! 🙂

  11. I do most of those, but have never done the part water thing, except once or twice when I had to because we were low on milk of any kind. I didn’t notice a difference so I should have clued in! 🙂

    Glad you posted that bone broth thing again, I keep meaning to do that, now I am going to print it out! I never knew you could use onion skins. Do you use carrot peels too? I imagine you wash it all first? Sometimes I peel the carrot and then wash it after…

    I also wash ziplocs, and when we get milk bags too. I also save bread bags from the store to use for when I make homemade bread.

    Cooking from scratch, finding recipes for things that otherwise I might buy pre-made (just found a recipe to make teriyaki sauce, for example, so I can now use it as I can make it wheat free and free of other gross ingrdients, plus its cheaper!) and also buying things and using them when they are discounted is probably where I make the most difference in my kitchen. For example if I see lemons on discount I will juice them all up and freeze the juice, or if there are a ton of apples I can make apple sauce, dehydrate them, etc. etc. Bananas as you know freeze really well and when I see them discounted I buy as many as I can.

    Also using old clothes cut up for rags saves a lot of money. I keep some baby washcloths in the kitchen just for the kids for faces and runny noses. I also re-use those canning disks again for freezing things in the small jars and also for food storage, until they begin to show wear (I don’t reuse them again for canning though as some people do, since I really don’t want my seals to maybe fail, and I did it once and it happened). If I have some fruit that is almost “done” but still edible I put in in smoothies. You mentioned I think before about using it in fruit leathers too in a dehydrator.

  12. Those are some great ideas. I especially love that you make your own broth. I’ve only done that once mainly because we don’t eat a lot of meat on the bone.
    One of the biggest things that have helped me save money on groceries (is probably something you already do) is not buy to many pre-made things. So for instance I haven’t bought cleaning supplies for a long time. I just bottle (still have the same gallon Mr. Clean botton) vinegar, laundry detergent and water. Same with my glass cleaner, just vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water. You can even dust your wood surfaces with a cloth diaper, lemon juice and olive oil. I never buy pancake mix, frozen waffles, or even cake mix (and I can’t bake well) but it saves a lot of money to make it yourself.

    What has made the biggest difference in my husbands budget though is the fact that I cook every day and always prepare the leftovers for his lunch the next day. Not only do we save money on him eating out at work, but we don’t waste as much food in the process.

  13. I’ve been doing the sharp cheese for awhile and it does work. You really don’t have to use as much.
    I finally got wise with rewashing the baggies. I would throw them away if they leaked while washing, then I thought they could still hold larger items like cookies etc. Duh…takes me awhile sometimes to catch on I guess!

  14. You are all really frugal! I did some things when I was a kid so much that I just refuse to make myself do some frugal things. However having to say that I believe that whatever you can do to help your family, that you feel comfortable doing and is not harming anyone then go for it. I will say I have a funny thing about the ziplock bags because if you use plastic too much some of the chemicals eventually ‘leak’ into the things you are storing so just take care and keep on being frugal!

  15. This is a great thread. Our generation has been so trained that everything is disposable. I really hope to train my girls to think differently, that there is a better way of doing things. The ideas here are great. And even if they save only a few pennies, you are being a good steward of what you have been given.

    We compost most of our scraps for our compost pile and for our chickens.
    Sharp cheddar does work well for less.
    I save paper from my printer from articles that I print where there is just a little bit at the tail end that is not necessary to keep or mistakes in printing ( I hate that ) – I give it to my girls for drawing paper.
    We often feed the wild birds with the ends of the bread, but sometimes I do use it for bread crumbs.
    I often use a bit of left over mint or citrus peel to freshen my sink disposal.

  16. I buy inexpensive wash cloths in the bundle at discount stores and use them as ‘kitchen rags’ instead of using paper towels and napkins. They are more absorbent and softer too.

    Love your idea about putting the veggies in the zippy bag in the freezer for broth. Awesome idea.

  17. I make “snack bags” out of cloth and velcro for my boys (instead of zip lock bags) and for bulk items such as oats and wheat berries. I love the idea of saving veggies and butter wrappers, have never thought of that!

  18. Great ideas! Especially loved #2 and will begin implementing immediately! I’ve tried to phase out all plastics and use glass containers. You buy them once and use and reuse them forever.

    Love your blog!

  19. Great ideas! I do most of them, although it never occured to me to save the butter wrappers. Have to try that one! Other things I do are use canning jars as often as possible for for storage instead of plastic bags or containers, cut up old tshirts and such for rags, homemade cleaners using vinegar, baking soda, etc, cook in big batches in the crockpot and freeze…
    We also actually keep chickens in our subdivision back yard (which may or may not be legal:-)The three of then provide us with all the fresh eggs we need, and they make great garbage disposals! All of our fruit and veggie scraps and peels, bread heels, etc go to the chickens!

  20. Great tips!
    We use tupperware for school lunches instead of ziplock or saran wrap, and an insulated lunch bag instead of paper.
    In baking I use Passionate Homemaking’s flaxseed binder in place of eggs (with fantastic results).
    I bake and cook from scratch as much as possible, including to stock the freezer with homemade “convenience foods” like pizza, pizza pops, etc, for rushed meals(like on soccer or ballet nights).
    We have also become a paper-free kitchen. I bought a large quantity of dish cloths and kitchen towels that we use in place of paper towel, and we use cloth napkins, too.
    Oh, and the cheese- it worked here! We use way less if it’s a sharp cheese.

  21. Great tips! Here are a few things I do.

    I checked out a couple vegan cookbooks from the local library, vegans cook without using any animal products. It is good to have a few of these recipes on “standby” if I run out of dairy or eggs and don’t want to run to the store or if I’m trying to clean out the pantry.

    Using cloth napkins is very important for me and my family in order to cut down on the disposables. I also try to use cloth handkerchiefs.

    Along the same lines as the cloth diapers I use cloth menstrual pads for myself. It was an initial investment of about $100 and I have been using them for over three years now. It has saved a ton of money.

  22. Fantastic ideas – we already use the ones you listed, but it’s always fun to see we’re not the only “weird” ones 😉

    I love Jodi’s idea about using cloth snack bags – plastic just makes me nervous in general, but it’s really hard to rinse warm raisins (!) out of a plastic baggie, so we usually just re-use til Moma gets disgusted and tosses it 😉

    Oh, and we cut our cheese consumption in half with the sharp cheddar, and I actually cured myself of “cheese snacks” (yes, I could eat an entire brick myself…) by buying the extra extra sharp. 🙂

  23. For drying ziploc bags, I’ve found a great method: Get an aloe vera plant to put by your kitchen sink. After washing them in soapy dishwater, rinse them, then hang the bags upside on the leaves. The water dripping from them is usually enough to keep it watered (they don’t need much) and aloe is great if you get a burn.

    Great tips and links.

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