How to Live Frugally Part 2

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

January 2, 2009


Categories: Family, Food

So, now that you’ve established your plan (expenses, budget, the plan), you’re ready to really start trimming the fat in other areas.  From what I’ve read (gurus and everyday moms like me), one of the first places to tackle is the grocery budget.  A pattern I see evolving in our own circumstances is as follows:

  • Spring – plant
  • Summer – tend to the garden
  • Fall – harvest
  • Winter – hibernate

In other words… whether you garden yourself or you buy your produce from the market, eating seasonally is one way to help your food budget.  Collect produce you eat regularly in the summer and fall.  Prepare them for canning and/or freezing, and then you are set up for the cooler (cold) winter months.  Similar trends are simply buying in bulk, divvying up the products and setting them aside for when you need them.

This is what we do so far.  I buy 25 lbs of sugar at a time, currently just brown, and when we run out of white, I’ll purchase a 25 lb of that too.  The 25 lb costs about $13, whereas a 10 lb bag of white cane sugar costs about $6.50, the savings are pretty clear.  I make our bread, and we buy 100 lbs of flour at a time right around $60 for the lot.  If you utilize a food buying club, chances are you could reduce the cost further to $40 per 100 lbs.  It takes about 4 lbs of flour to make 4 loaves of bread, or about 1 lb per loaf.  The bread I make is more comparable in nutrition to the spendier bread.  So, what I make at home costs us about 70 cents per loaf and would cost over $3 per loaf from the grocery store.

Buy local when and where possible.  When you buy local, you are not only putting money back into your local economy and helping to eliminate unneeded CO2 in the air, but you are probably saving money too.  We do a lot of our grocery shopping at a west-coast chain of restaurant supply stores that is open to the public.  We can get a 4lb bag of pasta for usually under $4.  If you were to buy that in the grocery store, it’d cost over $1 per pound.  And, often what we find is the distributors of the products we buy are a lot more local then many things Fred Meyer/Kroger carries.

Make food in bulk and freeze it for later.  Or get creative with your leftovers.  If you’re making chili and you use dried beans, cook extra beans for later.  If you’re planning a stir fry, make 4 cups of dry brown rice instead of 2.  Save the other 2 cups for another dish later in the week.  Have one big meal every week or every two weeks.

Being frugal takes dilligence, and it can sometimes be exhausting.  I found that even clipping coupons helps (every cent counts!), but that takes discipline, and sometimes I just don’t have that.  Thankfully, our shopping trends have allowed us no more than 2 major shopping trips per month in these wintery months.

Always keep in your head how you can save by questioning if you really need something.  Do you need that chocolate bar or is it a craving for something deeper?  Do you really need a new pair of socks, or are you just wanting to pamper yourself with a small purchase?  If you’re thinking of shopping at Nordstrom’s or Macy’s for wardrobe enhancements, consider JC Penney or Sear’s, or Old Navy, or Ross/Marshall’s/TJMaxx, or then Goodwill or other thriftstores.  Be cautious though, sometimes Goodwill will sell you a gently used pair of slacks for $7 and Target had a clearance pair (new of course) for $5.  Don’t forget about consignment shops or trendier second hand shops like Buffalo Exchange.

When considering how to save money on your vehicles, the first big step would be to consolidate your trips so you’re not making wasteful trips.  We often coordinate our errands so we make one giant circle.  For example, we’ll visit the library, Post Office, super market, restaurant shop, then home.  We rarely (thank the good Lord) run home in between these destinations.  Own your car, don’t lease, and buy used.  If you’re in the market for a car, make sure to check insurance quotes and maintenance estimates before you make the purchase.  You want to be sure the car you’re getting into fits into your budget in all categories.  If you’re having trouble figuring out how to get your vehicle fixed at the local garage, consider a community college.  Ask around and see which institution teaches people and works towards certification.  They (like beauty schools) need practice, and this could be a viable alternative to a spendy “name brand” mechanic.

Cut your own hair, or take longer between trims.  We purchased a buzzer for Peter, and I will just go in a lot less to get my locks trimmed.  The buzzer usually will pay for itself after 2 uses.

I’ll end with this, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”


  1. Mackenna


    Your tips are well-written. As someone who is very diligent about these types of matters, I can vouch for the payoff. Each month, I also shop twice per month. I clip coupons and combine those with the sales at what I have deemed the local “metro marts”. You save more by going to large chain stores.

    Another few buying tips if I may suggest some: Canning is a huge money saver. Look at those jars of pickles in the store for $3.00. By growing my own garden, I can make a jar of pickles for a tenth of that, at most. I also make my own salsas and tomato sauces when I can. Canning is an inexhaustible option – you can even can meat.

    We get a majority of our clothing from garage sales. I know many would not do this, but I go shopping at garage sales before school starts and my daughter gets an entire new wardrobe for the price of one or two name-brand shirts. It is more time consuming but you can enjoy it as a family event.

    We also frequent farmers’ markets for items we do not grow.

  2. Michelle

    I agree absolutely with your other tips regarding emphasis on canning and garage (or 2nd hand resellers) for clothing. But, I can’t agree with Big Box Stores. Sometimes you can save money, but if we think only economically about a thing, we often forget to think about the environment and social issues. And often those Big Box Giants, like Home Depot and Wal-Mart don’t offer better deals and cut too many corners that the little guy down the street wouldn’t do.

    Thanks very much for commenting!

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