You Tell Me: The Little Things

You Tell Me: The Little Things

**I confess, I couldn’t resist using this picture. This, my friends, is a Canadian $2 coin, otherwise known as the Toonie (get it? Two-nie. Punny, huh?). I don’t usually, but yes, I did giggle when I saw this picture and thought of how the little things do indeed add up!**

Last call for your input, I promise! πŸ™‚

I’ve just found your comments and emails so very helpful in this book writing process, that I just can’t resist asking you for one more, very practical thing.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called The Little Things That Add Up. I shared some of the things that I had been doing in my own kitchen and cooking that may not save a whole lot of money in and of themselves, but all together added up to small but significant savings.

Many of you joined in and added some of your own little things, like making your own spice mixes, saving store-bought bread bags for kitchen storage, or making cloth snack bags that can be reused rather than buying ziploc baggies. I know that you’ve got more frugal tips tucked away in those creative brains of yours, and I would love to pry them out of you, if I may!

Would you share with me and my readers any and all of the “little” frugal things that you do to keep your food and kitchen costs low? My thanks in advance!

(Again, my one request is that you only leave a comment for me of this
nature if you are comfortable with me publishing it as a quote in my
new eBook. It won’t be practical for me to directly contact every
single person who comments, and I would like to freely use the quotes
that I think would add to the book. If you would leave a name that you
are comfortable with me using when/if I quote you (it doesn’t have to
be your real name, and last names aren’t necessary), as well as where
you’re from (only if you’re comfortable with that), that would be
fantastic! Thanks!

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  1. My daughter just started first grade, and we’ve wrestled with the lunch box and trying to cut down on plastic bags but containers not fitting properly, etc…so I finally bit the bullet and ordered a kids’ bento box for her. It wasn’t cheap to start out, but it will save money and resources in the long run. And it will help us think outside of the box when it comes to what goes into her lunch!

  2. A couple of small things that add up.

    I save all my bread ends and scraps. I just throw them in a bread bag in the freezer. Then when I need bread crumbs for a recipe I pull them out and run them through the food processor for easy and practically free bread crumbs.

    Eliminate (or greatly reduce) the disposable. We use old baby wash clothes for our everyday napkins. The savings of paper towels adds up quick.

    Use less meat. I try to have a vegetarian meal or two per week, and when we do use meat it is often as an ingredient, not the main dish. It took me awhile to incorporate this one, but the savings here are really big.

  3. When you mentioned the $2 coin, you forgot to mention that long before Canada introduced the $2 coin, we had the $1 coin. The image on the coin was a loon, and so it became the “loonie”! When the ‘toonie’ came out we thought the world would like we were truly ‘Crazy Canucks’ with our funny money – loonies, toonies, and colorful money! It is true though, if you use cash in Canada you pocketful of coins can easily be $50! I lived in the US now, but I actually do miss those silly little coins!

    Last year we put out some money that we consider an investment to our health. I bought a wheat mill and some wheat and started using fresh ground flour for everything. I have not purchased store bought bread or flour since. The health benefits were immediate, and within a year we have saved enough, just by not buying bread, to cover the cost of the mill.

    We try to eat at least one meal a week that is prepared from our food storage. We make things like pasta dishes and casseroles using canned chicken, tuna or salmon. Basically, I try to make the meal without using anything from the fridge or freezer. In the event of long term power failure (yay for gas stoves!) it is comforting to know that I can make meals we are used to without needing to use fresh or frozen ingredients. And we would still eat bread made from fresh ground flour because I made sure to include a hand grinder in my food storage supplies!

  4. In response to the first comment, I bought my husband this really great Tupperware lunch container that has a section for a sandwich and then 3 other different sized sections for snacks. In the last year we’ve eliminated the need for ziplock backs when packing his lunches. Tupperware, while it may be pricey at first, is worth the money.

    Also I have a bag in my freezer that hold vegetables for homemade stock. It includes things like celery tops, onion peels, carrot pieces, etc.

  5. Carrie, thanks for filling in the rest of the story on the loonie and toonie! I actually love Canadian money, funny as it may be! πŸ™‚

    Great tips, everyone! Keep them coming!

  6. A few little things that add up for me and my family are:

    *Making our own christmas and birthday cards
    *Reusing fabric bags to “wrap” gifts rather than purchasing gift wrap
    *Making homemade granola and buying what I cannot make in bulk

    This is a great topic, thank you!

  7. I have a large family(8).
    To save on the food budget I make a hearty soup 2 times a week and a few casseroles each week!
    Its a great way to stretch a small amount of left over meat and feed everyone a second night!

    Georgiann in the Pacific Northwest!

  8. I like to make my own spice mixtures, especially a great recipe for a BBQ dry rub that I learned from my grandma, as well as her coating mix for fried fish. Also, when plums are in season, I make and can my own sweet n sour sauce that is great for dipping spring rolls or to make sweet n sour chicken, and my son like to dip chicken nuggets in it. I also do a lot of casseroles or stews in the winter or pasta salads and soups in the summer, as these meals usually make enough for at least 3 meals! I also wash and re-purpose any glass jars (spaghetti sauce, mayonaise, etc…) that I buy at the store.

  9. I don’t think I have anything new to add really, but I made a list. From reading your blog for I think around 1.5 years now, I think you pretty much already do all the things I do. But here is my list anyways! I really had to think because I think that doing most of these things is just second nature to me after many years of doing them (if not my whole life).

    Don’t you love how many frugal things also mean we are being better stewards of the earth (environmentally friendly!) and our bodies and our money! All in one! I love that.

    -menu planning and having a shopping list. Saves tons of money including gas money and potentially (although not for my family) eating out because you don’t know what to have for supper
    -using rags (old shirts!) that I cut up, instead of paper towels. I don’t buy paper towels. Ever.
    -using baking soda in the kitchen for cleaning up stainless steel pots and pans (instead of toxic and expensive pot cleaners/cream cleansers). It also works well on glass baking dishes that get that brown gunk on them. Best to do it when they are being washed rather than wait for it to build up. It also does well for sinks
    -using vinegar and water to clean counter tops and it really helps to remove that baked on stuff that gets on the stove top while cooking (I am not sure if it would be good for those glass top stoves, mine is the regular kind).
    -making my own soup stock. I buy 99% whole turkies and chickens and so I always have the bones and make stock from them.
    -Buying in bulk dried beans and then cooking up in large quantities and then freezing the extras of the beans. No BPA from cans or other additives. Convenience like canned if you freeze them in the portions of one can (or whatever you like). Costs way less.
    -Have a bar of hand soap by the kitchen sink. This means you don’t use more expensive dishwashing soap to wash hands.
    -buying spices at the bulk food store and not the grocery. This way you can buy either big quantities of things you use lots of, and therefore save, or buy small quanities (like even a teaspoon!) of something you are trying out or only use once in a while so that you don’t waste a huge bottle of it (spices don’t last forever).
    -save the water when you cook potatoes, its wonderful soup stock
    -use alternatives to most disposable things. Like using glass containers with lids (canning jars are great! And no plastic worries. I reuse the sealing disks for fridge storage. Or in a pinch, a plate covering a bowl in the fridge, rather than saran wrap. Use other methods of cooking without tin foil.
    -Use a stack of old washcloths or cheap ones for the kids to wipe faces, hands etc. around the kitchen. Mine are in the bib drawer.
    -Experiment using less of something until you notice. Like a bit less soap in the dishwasher. A bit less meant in the dish. I often save out a bit like 1/4 cup of the ground beef for example and then freeze it in a container until I have about a pound. We never miss it and its like getting a free pound of ground beef.
    -compost your kitchen scraps. Good for the garden, and the environment, and also saves on garbage bags. Since we use all cloth shopping bags we hardly ever have those plastic bags given out when buying things. So we have to buy garbage bags. I freeze my meat scraps that are totally unusable (already made into stock etc) and then put them in on garbage day. This makes for very little need to change the garbage bag in the kitchen can. Once a week usually. Then simply place it into the garbage can rather than another big black bag.

    Thats all I could think of. Let me know if I wasn’t clear enough on something. I am really tired today.

  10. I save the bags that dry cleaning clothes come back in and use them for trash. Works best for big light stuff like boxes or paper trash. -Vanessa from Tyler, Texas

  11. I’m sure I don’t have much to add as so many others have given some great tips and ideas, but here are some anyway. My name is Kelly and I’m from New Hampshire.

    I keep a large freezer safe bag in the freezer. Every time I cut up carrots, celery or onions, I save the carrot peels/tops, celery tops and the parts of the onions that are too close to the end to get chopped up. I save them so that when it is time to make stock, I already have the veges ready.

    I keep another freezer bag to put in carcasses of either the rotissary chickens we eat or the bones from our split breast chickens (much less expensive than boneless, skinless), also to make stock.

    We have gotten our own chickens this year and soon we will have fresh eggs! We’ve been saving our egg cartons (so have some family and friends) that we will reuse once our hens have started laying (hopefully we should start seeing some eggs soon!) Also, the chickens like to eat many of our fruit/vege scraps. So everytime the kids finish eating an apple/pear/peach etc. they toss what’s left out to the chickens, who LOVE it and make quick work of it. Plus, they are just so much fun!

    We have found that many local farms will give a bulk discount if you buy a certain number of pounds of fruit/veges. You have to ask them as they generally will not volunteer it! One place we go for u-pick, will give a discount if you purchase at least 20lbs of blueberries. We freeze LOTS, eat some, bake with some (and freeze some of the baked goods), and make jam with some. Same with the peaches that we picked recently.

    We have a local bottle store. They mostly make homemade brews, but after contacting them, they are willing to sell some bottles to me if I buy a bulk amt. of them. Really nice blue bottles. I will be splitting the bulk with my friend and we will be using them to make our own herbed vinegars. Some to keep for ourselves, others to give as gifts.

    When the oppurtunity arises to buy really large quantities of something in bulk at discounted prices, do so with friend. You both end up saving.

    Many websites will give you coupons for organic foods. And since most flyers don’t give coupons for organic foods this is nice. Plus you don’t have to print the coupons you won’t use, less paper, less waste.

    Garage sales, yard sales, Salvation Army and GoodWill are all great places to find books and clothes (among other things). Many of which are in great shape. Keep a list of things you are looking for (especially those homeschool books!) in your purse for that purpose!

  12. I love beautifully wrapped gifts but buying the right paper for every occasion gets expensive quickly. I like to buy plain brown paper in bulk on sale and then buy all different kinds of ribbons. After each holiday there is always leftover ribbon on deep discount. You can get red and green after Christmas, orange and black after Halloween, pastels after Easter etc etc. Soon you will have ribbon for any occasion and having one paper takes up so much less room than tons of different rolls and lots of random gift bags! Plus the brown with a beautiful pop of color from the bow always looks classy.

  13. I have to 2nd the menu planning! What a huge money saver!!! I also 2nd the…it’s worth buying containers for packed lunches, because in the end it is less bags purchased throughout the year. As well as a lunch box, and not bags.

    Making breakfast has been a big money saver for my family. My husband’s favorite food is cereal, but it is expensive and not so healthy. So, as long as I get up early enough, I can make him breakfast before he gets out the door and it’s cheaper with much less cereal purchased and healthier in the long run. (Plus it is fun to be able to spend that couple of minutes together in the morning alone before our daughter wakes up…even if both of us are too groggy to talk:)

    Finally, my husband has three long days where he is gone for over 12 hours, so that means 2-3 meals packed to go depending on the day. Hardboiled eggs, trailmix, and dried fruit have been some of our frugal alternatives for “to go” food, as well as making freezer portions for him of all our meals, so there is always something for him to take, which means savings b/c of no fastfood and no prepackaged food.

    Oh, and one more. We pretty much never buy juice.

  14. I steam my veggies. Afterwards, take the liquid (from whatever type of vegetable) and put in a container in the freezer. I have a larger container and just add the liquid on top of the frozen. It’s perfect for stock for soups or recipes!

  15. – I roast a whole chicken, cut up and freeze the meat to use in other dishes, and make chicken stock from the carcass in my crock pot.

    – I use cloth dishrags instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of disposable napkins

    – I use baking soda to clean gunky, baked-on messes

    – I make homemade iced tea or iced coffee when we want to drink something other than water. It is much cheaper and better for you than soda

    – I keep my freezer as full as possible, because there is less empty space to cool so it makes the freezer more efficient

    – I run stale bread through the food processor to make breadcrumbs, which I store in the refrigerator

    – I pop popcorn on the stove top instead of buying microwave popcorn

    – I make my own hot chocolate with milk, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, & a pinch of salt. Healthier and much cheaper than buying the packets

    – I make homemade chocolate syrup (I found the recipe by googling it, basically the same ingredients as hot chocolate, but no milk, and much thicker)

    I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you!

    – Jennifer, Pennsylvania

  16. I have taken down our paper towel holder and replaced it with a towel bar. Now everytime I would have reached for a paper towel I get a real towel instead. I know a lot of you do not use paper towels, but that was something I didn’t want to give up. Now I’m very glad I did.

    I make my own baby wipes. I bought a nice big soft flannel sheet at a garage sale and I have been cutting squares off as I need them. When they’re dirty I put them in a bucket of water with a splash of bleach. I’ll drain them and put them in a laundry sack and wash them with the rest of my laundry.
    *to wet the wipes I have a little squirt bottle that has all water with a splash of baby oil. I’ve used this method for 2 boys now going on 3 and diaper rashes aren’t non-existant, but pretty close.

    I have a diva cup and I am so very glad I do. For those of you who don’t know what it is, well it’s a reusable tampon pretty much. It is comfortable and easy to use and I wish I had bought it a long time ago.

    I recently made all my meals(dinners)for the month and what a time, money, and energy saver that has been! I totally recommed it to everyone! It took a little planning but when does saving money NOT take a little planning!

    So there’s my toonies πŸ™‚

  17. I use beans in everything. Add to sloppy joes and smush them up a little and your family won’t even notice. Add lentils to spaghetti sauce and you can use half the ground beef. Add to meatloaf, soups, casseroles, everything!

    I use dried beans and cook them in the crockpot. I freeze them and it’s just as easy to pull a container out of the freezer as it is a can from the pantry!

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