Every time I wash up one of my canning jars, I think to myself, "Well that's a dollar I didn't have to spend.". Preserving the harvest, is one of the basic principles of thrift that people throughout history have lived by. Only in the last one-hundred years have people had the luxury to go to a grocery store and buy whatever strikes their fancy. Notice I said "luxury" because that is what it is. And luxuries are always expensive. Always on a quest to learn new frugal skills, I read many blogs and watch many YouTube videos on frugality. Something that strikes me as odd, is that many of the most popular thrift blogs talk about going to the store and buying things. Which leads me to the very first principle of the pantry mindset:
NEVER BUY WHAT YOU CAN MAKE FOR YOURSELVES
Recently I was reading a blog where the woman was bragging about the great price she got on cocoa mix. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, "Well she could have made it better and healthier (no preservatives) from basic items every pantry should have, after all cocoa is just sugar, cocoa, and milk." As I walk about the grocery store, I notice all the convenience foods such as; cheese cut into cracker-sized squares, hamburger helper, packages of some seasoned breadcrumbs and a few tablespoonfuls of cheese called meal starters, an entire aisle of frozen pre-packaged dinners. Why would anyone buy these things? They are often loaded with sodium and preservatives and in truth how convenient are they? How long does it take to cut your own cheese, or to season some breadcrumbs with your own herbs? You still have to boil the noodles and fry the hamburger for hamburger helper, so what are you really saving in time to buy it pre-packaged?
This past week, we made our own English muffins, yogurt, granola (cereal), bread, noodles, mini-pizzas for the freezer, cookies, hand soap, pie crusts and chicken bullion. Did it take time? Sure. But I didn't have to spend any time in the grocery store hunting for great bargains either. I didn't spend any time clipping coupons and driving around to get the best deal. Thrift is my
BUY LESS ITEMS BUT BETTER QUALITY
Because we buy fewer things, we can focus on buying better quality, like non-GMO cornmeal, organic cane sugar, non-bromiated unbleached flour, fresh organic vegetables.
The other day, I was in the grocery store buying a twenty pound bag of flour. We buy a locally milled, unbleached non-bromiated flour. The cashier asked me what did I do with it! At first, I was confused, "What do I do with flour?"! But then I realized she didn't recognize flour as flour unless it had the Gold Medal or King Arthur logo on the package. So I started to say well, I bake bread and cookies and yesterday I made noodles. Which lead to me explaining how to make noodles. "Are they cheaper?" she asked. About twenty-five cents for as many as you get in this two dollar bag, so you tell me! This is becoming a common thing with me, evangelizing the virtues of thrift. I always wanted to be of some service to God, and maybe this is the way He is using me.
BUY IN BULK WHEN YOU GET A GOOD DEAL
We had been searching for peanut butter without hydrogenated oil in it. After reading many labels we found some at a good price, at Big Lots no less! So we bought enough to last us an entire year. Now we do not have to shop for peanut butter anymore this year. BTW, when it comes to peanut butter, read the labels carefully, a lot of "natural" ones still contain hydrogenated oil.
This past year we have purchased twenty pounds bags of orgainic cane sugar at a very low price, which saw us through half of the year. Making jam takes a lot of sugar!
I even buy my hearing aid batteries in bulk from Amazon.
Living out of the pantry, does take time and forethought. While I'm working on my meals for the day, I'm thinking about the meal for the next day. Do I need to defrost something? What's in the fridge that I need to use up? What can I substitute for an ingredient that I don't have?
Our meals are based upon what we have on hand, not what we desire to eat. You know the old saying, "Eat to live not live to eat". We have TV networks and blogs devoted to food, it seems our country is obsessed with food. Really a pot of homemade soup can be just as nutritional (maybe more so) than some expensive gourmet extravaganza.
WASTE NOT WANT NOT
I often cringe when I see someone toss a half eaten apple that their child took a bite out of and then decided not to eat. Or a bowl of soup that they ate a spoonful of soup of before rejecting it. I so want to tell them to refrigerate that apple and then they can grate it into some meatballs or dice it and bake it with some cinnamon and sugar. That they can throw the soup back into the pot. When you reheat it, it will kill the germs anyway. Make it a goal to reduce your food waste. Don't buy things and then don't use them.
GO WITH THE FLOW
I know many economists insist that making a menu and sticking with it is the best way to save money, but I beg to differ. What if you get the grocery store and find an unadvertised special? What if the soup you made lasts for two days instead of one? Menus are fine as a general rule, but you need to be flexible. Improvising is one of the foundations of thrift.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK
Made our own English muffins (really easy)
Made peanut butter granola
Bought six woolen garments for my quilt for the thrift store for $1.50 (95% off)
Knitted a sweater for my grandson for a present from yarn I unraveled from a 50 cent thrifted sweater
Made a large batch of pie crusts and froze them for future use
Heated our house with wood since the temperatures have reached above freezing
Started our seeds from saved seeds (peppers, tomatoes, onions and perennial flowers) we don't buy plants
Learned how to make a heat exchange system for our guest house from a YouTube video
Canned 12 lbs. of corned beef which was purchased after St. Pat's Day for $2.50/lb.
Made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies from some chocolates that I bought at the after Christmas sale at 75% off (about $1/lb.). Froze half for future snacking.
Made chicken boullion
Made homemade Greek-style yogurt. Here's how:
Greek-Style Yogurt (1 quart)
1 quart milk (we use 2%)
1/2 C. non-fat dry milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1. Combine milk and non-fat dry milk in pot. Heat slowly to 180 degrees.
2. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees.
3. Add yogurt. Pour into pint containers.
4. Store yogurt at 110 degrees for 5 hours. Our dehydrator has a setting for this. When we were younger and poorer we used to wrap the yogurt in pile of woolen blankets and set it near a heat source (such as a radiator). There's also yogurt makers available if you are interested.