How do you define frugal? Do you think it means being stingy or cheap? Is it a way of life or something that is forced on you? We all have our own definitions of frugal as a word but first, let’s look at a dictionary definition. From Wiktionary, we find – From Latin frugalis – Avoiding unnecessary expenditure either of money or of anything else which is to be used or consumed; avoiding waste.
Frugal or Cheap?
I was raised in a fairly frugal family and I often thought of my father as “cheap” when it came to buying some things. Even though he loved some of the finer things in life and also believed in buying quality over quantity, especially where cars were involved, he would buy the cheapest brand of trash bags and then curse when the thing broke. There are just some things you need to splurge a little on, especially when it comes to having the garbage break and spread all your dirty ditties all over the driveway at 6am!
So, how do we develop a frugal mindset without slipping into the depths of cheap, miserly or stingy? It truly is a mindset that needs to be nurtured and expanded. Being frugal where our food is concerned is making a concerted effort not to waste anything, striving to buy only what we need and seeking out ways to use up what we have.
Frugality in the Kitchen
One area where I struggle is figuring out how to buy the proper amount of food for the best price since my husband has passed away and my two boys are out of the house. Cooking and shopping for one is downright tough.
Stores like Costco can offer great savings provide you are attune to the prices elsewhere. However, you need to have the storage space for large quantities and you need to make sure you can use everything before their expiration dates. Otherwise, you are just wasting money.
Having Ready Made Homemade Meals in the Freezer
As an example of my difficulty cooking for one, I can start out with a small amount of ingredients to make a pot of vegetable soup and end up with a stock pot full after adding all the vegetables. That’s OK, since I like my own cooking, but I can only eat soup for breakfast, lunch and supper for so long. So it’s nice to have the extra soup in the freezer, in lunch and supper-sized dishes, for a quick meal when in a hurry.
Reduce Waste by Buying Limited Quantities
One way I’ve discovered to reduce waste is to buy spices at the Bulk Barn or from the bulk bins in the grocery stores. It provides me a way to buy a small amount without having to worry about them losing their aroma before I use them. (You can also make your own seasoning mixes to save money too!)
Buying from the bulk bins is also a good way to purchase things I’d like to try such as quinoa or wheat berries. This prevents me from having to buy a large package only to learn I don’t really like them.
I will offer a word of caution when buying from bulk bins. Be sure to shop in stores that are popular where there is a good turnover of product. If not, you might find stale products, and you may believe that something isn’t as good as it could be if it was fresh.
Use It or Lose Money
A good example of this is the day I had sweet potatoes that were growing little green legs and I was tired of throwing away my money. How long did I have to work to buy those potatoes and how many other times had I done it? You spy the sweet potatoes at the grocery and immediately envision hot baked sweet potatoes, dripping hot butter and topped with brown sugar and maple syrup, but forget about them in the pantry.
Later, you see them and they’re starting to sprout bright green shoots indicating their days are numbered. The amazing meal you thought of while shopping is no longer appealing and you can’t imagine what you could do with them.
Searching the kitchen, you see a few onions that are on their last legs. You know there are some carrots in the crisper drawer and there’s even a few veggies left from the veggie tray you had earlier in the week.