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Frugal Living Tips

Updated on June 2, 2013

Frugal Living Tips I Learned from my Mum

My mother is the ultimate source for frugal living tips. She managed to keep a family of two adults and six children all on one income. And my Dad was a teacher, so it wasn't a huge income. While I was at home, Mum never went out to work. She was always at home for we kids. I guess it was pretty much a full-time job looking after us all anyway!

This is a list of tips compiled by my Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters. Many of these tips have been incorporated into our lives and are helping us to live frugal lifestyles too.

Picture credit: mconnors on morguefile.

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save money on groceries
save money on groceries

Frugal Food Tips

Picture credit: my own photo

  • Grow your own vegetables. (See pictures from my parents' vegetable garden). Vegetables can also be grown in pots.
  • Buying food in bulk can offer be cheaper. But do compare the prices since it sometimes isn't the better deal. Buy large 25kg bag of brown rice. (It's the healthiest). Keep in large plastic container on wheels to keep vermin out. Other large bags of dried foodstuffs can also be stored in this container. Fill up a smaller container with the rice for use in the kitchen.
  • Large garbage cans with clip on sealing lids are also very suitable for storage of large bags of flour, sultanas etc.
  • Buy fruit from the side of the road grower's stalls.
  • Search for specials in supermarket catalogues. Buy enough for it not to get out of date in your cupboard or freezer. This makes an enormous difference!
  • Make and cook your own wherever possible. Much healthier and much better taste. See the yogurt recipe below.
  • Only buy fruit and vegetables in season. They tend to be cheaper then. A number of fruits freeze very well. Raspberries, youngberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries can all be frozen fresh. Apples and pears can be cooked and frozen. Use recycled icecream and yogurt containers for storing your produce.
  • 10 kg bags of onions and potatoes are cheap in season. You may end up throwing some out but it may still work out much cheaper in the end. Or share a bag with family and friends.
  • Whenever you go out and especially with children always take drinks, sandwiches and fruit to nibble on. You are often out longer than anticipated
  • Freeze sliced bread. It is very easy to pull one or two slices off which means you will always have fresh bread for your sandwiches, and it won't go mouldy in the cupboard.
  • Always scrape out empty bottles and containers to get out the last drop. Spatulas are good for this. When there is only a tiny amount of honey left in a glass bottle, you can give it a zap in the microwave oven and the honey will become more runny. If you have a bottle of soy sauce etc with a small amount left in it, add a little water, swish it around and add it to your cooking. The last bit of cream can be extracted by running the outside of the container under hot water. Clean the bottom of an almost empty jam bottle with a piece of bread on your fork.
  • After cracking open an egg, always scrape out the last of the egg white with your finger (which should be clean because you're cooking aren't you!)

Plain Yogurt Recipe
Plain Yogurt Recipe

Cook Time

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 2 days

Serves: 5


  • 160 g (5 ½ oz) powdered milk
  • 3 cups of lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons of yogurt *


  1. Mix the powdered milk and warm water together until there are no more lumps
  2. Pour into a container which has a lid (I use a recycled yogurt container)
  3. Add the 2 spoons of yogurt to the container and stir
  4. Put the lid on the container and keep it in a warm spot (eg on top of the water heater) for a day or two until the yogurt is the right consistency. Alternatively put the container into a yogurt maker and leave for the time specified for your machine.
  5. * Hint: I like to use the yogurt with the good cultures in it (acidophilus, bifidus and casei) because these will multiply in your new yogurt.
Cast your vote for Make your own yogurt

Reuse items in the kitchen

Be creative - many items can be reused in the kitchen:

empty food containers

plastic bags

aluminium foil

butter wrappers

and more!

  • There is no need to buy expensive containers. Any kind of recycled food-grade containers with lids (eg yogurt, icecream containers) can be used in the kitchen for storing all kinds of foods, including left-overs. They are also very handy if you have a meal to give away (eg to the sick and elderly). The recipients can toss out the container when they have finished the meal.
  • Wrap sandwiches in empty plastic cereal bags (these are often plain, easily wiped down and can be used again and again) or bread bags.
  • Alternatively, use grease proof paper, which can also be wiped clean easily and used again. And when it can no longer be used for sandwiches, it can be composted.
  • Pay a bit more for better quality aluminium foil which can be washed and reused several times.
  • Rewash plastic drinking straws so they can be used again.
  • After taking the block of butter our of its paper wrapping, the paper could be used to grease cake pans and baking trays.
  • You can also use the butter wrappers to line a cake tin when greaseproof paper is needed for fruit cakes etc.

save electricity
save electricity

Tips for Saving Electricity

  • Switch lights off after use and do not use more than one or two lights per room.
  • Cook a big pot of rice. It will keep for one week in the refrigerator. Use some every day reheated in the microwave oven.
  • Turn off the oven 5 minutes before the end. It will stay hot if you don't open the door.
  • Try to avoid using the oven on a hot day. It will only increase the temperature inside further.
  • On a cold day leave the oven door open after cooking so that any residual heat gets into the room.
  • Turn off the iron before ironing your last item.
  • Only put as much water as you need when boiling the kettle (make sure you cover the element or fill to the minimum line). There is no use boiling a whole kettle full, pouring one cup then leaving the rest sitting in the kettle to cool down again.
  • Never use the toaster with only one slice of bread in it. Our toaster would make two slices of toast, so it would only be used with two slices of bread in it.
  • Close the doors on any room that you are heating / cooling. It takes too much energy to heat or cool the whole house.
  • On a hot day, close the curtains because a lot of heat gets transferred through the windows.

Frugal Clothing Tips

  • Buy clothes at Opportunity (thrift) and second hand stores. Find out when they have percent off days, or fill a bag for a couple of dollars.
  • Mend and darn socks and clothes if not worn out.
  • For children, pass on hand-downs to your friends and of course keep for your own use as long as you have children.
  • Shoes are very expensive. Look after the pairs you have by keeping them polished and clean.
  • Don't buy clothing that requires dry cleaning or ironing.
  • If you get a small ladder in your pantyhose, add a drop of clear nail polish to stop it from running even further. If the run gets too bad, you can cut off the entire leg at the crotch. When you have two good legs of the same colour, you can wear them together.

frugal gifts and greeting cards
frugal gifts and greeting cards

Frugal Gifts and Greeting Cards

  • Unwrap all gifts carefully, then remove the tape from the wrapping paper so that the paper can be used again. And there was no need to buy gift tags for each present - just write the name on a scrap of paper and stick it to the parcel.
  • Also have a plastic bag to keep ribbons, stars, rosettes and other decorations you come across during the year.
  • Reuse gift cards and name cards that are clear on one side. The used part can be cut off.
  • Keep all your birthday and Christmas cards. Use pictures for making your own new cards.
  • Make your own cards using pictures from old cards and advertising brochures and magazines.
  • Keep all pretty colored papers (eg the foil wrap around Easter eggs, advertizing brochures and envelopes from letters you are sent) to make greeting cards such as iris folding.
  • Keep your eyes open all through the year for birthday and Christmas gifts and keep them in an old case or large carry bag.

Frugal Cleaning Tips

  • Tea tree oil can be used for a host of things, from removing sticky labels from old jam jars, to an all purpose spot (zit) buster. Also good for removing chewing gum. Beware on varnished surfaces.
  • Vinegar is a good limescale remover (and natural to boot).
  • Toothpaste is another all rounder - spot buster, removes scratches from watch faces and other glass and metal surfaces.
  • Old toothbrushes can be reused for cleaning especially in squeezy corners eg getting into those corners in the bathroom around the taps / faucets.
  • Once the washable nappies / diapers were no longer needed for the babies, they could be used as cleaning cloths.
  • My parents always rinsed the dishes before washing up so by the end of the dishes, the water was still pretty clean. This soapy water would then be used to wash the floor, bathrooms etc.
  • Don't buy bin liners for your rubbish / trash bins. Just make sure you buy a bin of the correct size so that you can reuse the plastic shopping bags you receive.
  • If a peg breaks, usually one side is left good, so save it till another peg breaks and put the two good halves together.
  • Use the minimum dish wash liquid, more does not make the dishes cleaner.

thrifty garden tips
thrifty garden tips

Thrifty Garden Tips

  • Many things can be recycled and reused in the garden. Raise seeds in toilet paper rolls which are held in an old icecream container. The seedlings can be left in the tubes when they are planted in the garden.
  • For as long as I can remember, we always had a compost heap to make nutritious soil for the garden. So we had a dish in the kitchen for collecting fruit and vegetable scraps. Our dish was yellow, so it was always called "the yellow dish". The term was used so frequently, that when one of my sisters left home and started her own garden, she had to hunt down a yellow dish so that she could start her own compost heap. My other sister didn't bother with trying to find a yellow dish. She simply uses an old green dish as a compost dish but calls it "the yellow dish"!
  • Collect your own manure from paddocks and farms. Ask permission.
  • Collect sea weed. Can be used as a mulch or placed in the compost bin.
  • Old stockings can be used to tie plants to stakes in the garden.

Do you have any frugal tips from your own family to share?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens! I try to do some of these things but need to try a little harder!

    • DeboraR profile image


      5 years ago

      I was raised up doing most of these things, we had no other choice then. My family still does most of the list. It just comes naturally now.

    • xriotdotbiz lm profile image

      xriotdotbiz lm 

      6 years ago

      My biggest frugal tip would be for people to read Amy Daczyn's Tightwad Gazette, available in one volume. Really frugal- look for it in garage sales or at the library.

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 

      6 years ago

      i put a lot of eggshells and coffee grinds into my garden as a compost... sort of the breakfast remains! :D nice ideas here. I've made yogurt at home but never with powdered milk!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good tips, enjoy looking at site

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We do most of the things you have mentioned here.. :) But,not reusing foil. etc. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Really great tips...I think I'm going to do a post on my Baby Boomer Penny Pincher blog and put a link to this with it tomorrow.


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