Make Do with What You’ve Got

by Kelly · 10 comments

in Concepts in Frugality

I’ve been in a tupperware shortage for the past few months. I’ve never had an enormous number of plastic containers but but lately, some pieces have broken or gotten lost. I thought I needed to replace them- after all, not having containers for the leftovers meant not being able to take my lunch to work and so on.

Tonight however, I realized that instead of keeping my frozen leftovers (spaghetti sauce, bananas for banana bread, etc) in containers, I could wait until it was frozen, then stick the contents in a ziplock bag.

Voila– two containers en plus! And maybe one less thing to buy.

What’s been your latest flash of brilliance?


1 Carla April 17, 2011

Great idea! I keep larger containers from margarine, etc.. they’re great for freezing too! I just wont use them in the microwave or anything…

2 cacountrymom April 17, 2011

Well, since this is a “frugal” website, I would have to ask you how much the ziplock bags cost verses buying and washing, say, Ziplock containers. They’re less expensive than the actual Tupperware brand, are long lasting if you don’t abuse them and might save you money over disposable bags. Just a thought…

3 Kelly April 19, 2011

Absolutely! This is not a long term solution (and actually, since writing the post I’ve gone out and bought a few more Ikea containers), but it was more to point out that we don’t always need to run out and buy something *right away*- that by waiting we can find creative ways to meet our needs without spending money.

4 Bethy April 18, 2011

My mother-in-law loves sending us homemade preserves and relish. After we’ve emptied the jars, I use them to store leftovers, particularly soups. The little jars are the perfect size for one serving of soup; and I don’t have to worry about soup leaking in my bag as I tote my lunch to work!

5 Kelly April 19, 2011

Great idea!!

6 Katherine April 19, 2011

Actually this is a great idea… and in reply to the comment about the cost.. I find if you buy the thicker zip-lock bags (like the blue thick ones) you can actually get away with washing those and re-using them a few times… it’s worked for me anyway!

7 Oopon April 22, 2011

I like your creative problem solving skills. Well done.

I’m a big fan of glass bowls with tupperware lids. The glass wont get stained red from the spaghetti sauce and I can take them to work and microwave them. I also like yogurt and buy the big yogurt containers which turn out to be great storage containers.

8 Suzanne L April 24, 2011

I love the Ziplock containers and use them almost exclusively. I get the square ones so that the lids fit each other. I can see what is inside them too. I take the frozen contents out and put into larger plastic bags sometimes. All this leads to less waste. I also hate, hate, hate the hunt for matching lids so this saves my nerves too!

9 Shoestring May 1, 2011

I’ve been contemplating the exact same thing this week! Good idea re. freezing things and then transferring them. I’ve been getting my parents to save their margarine tubs which have been handy for freezing soups. I am planning to invest in one decent tupperware to use as a lunch box though. For the rest of the time I am happy to make do!

10 Jen May 12, 2011

Bonanza day….

I have a vegetable garden each summer, growing tomatoes, onions, peppers and various other items I know I will eat. I recycled a bunch of 2 qt jars from a aunt who passed away(I kept the containers out of the landfill. I use the tomatoes, onions and peppers to make and can home made spaghetti sauce. I can enough sauce to have a spaghetti dinner each week for the entire year. It costs about $15.00 for the plants and will yield about 60- 2quart jars of sauce. This is a savings of about $200.00. (60 jars of sauce at $4.00 each=$240.00-$15.00 for the plants is about $225.00. You have healthy home made pasta sauce, with no artificial fillers or chemicals. With the leftover peppers and onions I cut them in strips, freeze them on cookie sheets and place in a ziplock bag. There are so many times that you need cut up peppers and onions for something. A little cutting and freezing will save you a lot of time and money throughout the year. We often purchase chicken breasts when they are on sale. We cut the breasts (frozen) into strips, freeze individually and then put into a Ziplock bag. When we don’t know what to have for dinner, we pull out the chicken, peppers and onions. Add fajita spices, sour cream, salsa and tortilla’s and you have fajita’s in 15 minutes.

When I make lasagna, I make 2 pans and freeze one. When one of our Wisconsin snow storms hits, I don’t have to worry about what is for dinner.

Mulch in the garden- I use newspapers instead of expensive landscape fabric for my flower beds. It’s biodegradable, recycling and good for the earth…and it’s free!

Use your crockpot to cook beans. A bag of dry beans costs less than $1.00. Place your dry beans in your slow cooker or crock pot on low. You can also cook rice in your slow cooker. We will make home made black bean soup (using leftover ham) with the black beans for about $2.00. We will freeze the leftovers in individual size servings. You have lunch for the day.

Using those beans you just cooked in your slow cooker…make home made baked beans (recipes on the internet or most cookbooks)…take to a picnic. Total cost- less than $5.00 for a nice dish to pass.

I will take a chicken carcass, cover with water, add a bag of dry, white northern beans…and let it cook. Remove the bones when the beans are done cooking, add chunks of chicken, green chilis cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and milk….you have white chili…freeze it in those square ziplock containers you have been talking about and you have dinner on demand. Total cost is about $3.00 for 1 gallon of white chili.

What to do with your ham leftovers…cut the leftover ham into bite size chunks. Cook some black beans(in your slow cooker). Combine frozen southern style hash browns, corn, cut up onions and peppers (from your stash listed above), black beans, green chilis. Freeze this mixture on cookie sheets and place in ziplock bags when frozen. Heat oil in a frying pan, add mixture, and brown. Scramble several eggs and mix the eggs in with the potato mixture. For added flavor we may top with cheese. Sometimes we make breakfast burritos with this, and serve with sour cream, salsa and toast. If you use leftover ham, a one gallon bag of this mixture costs approximately $4.00. This will make approximately 15 meals for 2 people. We usually make extra so we have leftovers for breakfast burrito dinners on those nights when we both ask…what’s for dinner.

Clear jelly/baby food jars make great storage containers for screws, nuts, bolts, buttons, and all of those small things you seem to lose. I keep a jar for buttons in my sewing space.

I recycle coffee grounds by using them as mulch.

Learn how to knit or crochet. I live in Wisconsin. During the winter we often don’t want to go outside. My mom taught me how to crochet (you can puchase books or learn online through you tube). I watch sales and purchase a pound of yarn for less than $10.00. I crochet baby blankets during the winter and set them aside for the “next” baby shower. For less than $10.00 you have a very nice baby shower gift that is sure to please the new mom…people don’t make home made gifts any more. I have also crochetted afghans for Christmas, wedding, anniversary, birthday gifts. I can watch my tv shows or movies, make a gift for someone that won’t cost a lot of money, and it keeps my hands busy so I am not eating out of boredom….and besides it keeps you warm in the winter when it’s cold…so you can set your thermostat down while you stay warm and cozy underneath your own work.

I dilute my shampoo and conditioner with water. I have a tendency to use too much shampoo or conditioner (I have long hair.). I am stretching my hair care productions, not wasting them, and saving money.

Save all of those condiments you receive with your fast food. Store them in a container in your pantry. They come in handy when you want to go on a picnic, car trip, etc.

Use vinegar, baking soda for cleaning. We don’t purchase paper towels anymore. We use newspapers or old towels(rags) to clean everything. (It’s good for the environment.)

I wash dishes in a dishpan. (A trick learned from reading about the Great Depression.) When I have finished the dishes I throw the water on my outdoor plants. It seems that the plants nearest the door benefit from this the most, and are two to three times the size of those further from the door. You are recycling the water, watering and fertilizing your plants at the same time.

Save your Christmas cards. Cut them into gift tags…you can embellish with leftover glitter and glue, punch a hole in each tag, and string with a piece of twine or a small piece of ribbbon. Recycling, inexpensive, and pretty tags for your next gift.

We save all of our grass clippings and use for mulch on our vegetable gardens. This saves us from having to do extensive weeding in the garden. The grass provides nutrients to the garden, keeps the clippings out of the landfills, reduces the need for watering, and it’s biodegradable.

Stop purchasing carpet cleaner, use shaving cream instead. It’s inexpensive, and does a good job…and you are not using unnecessary chemicals in your home. Save money, be healthier.

The next time you go to get your hair cut ask for the clippings. Put them in the garden and the rabbits won’t eat your tender vegetables.

We travel. We take all of the soaps, shampoos and conditioners home with us. We haven’t purchases soap or shampoo for years.

Each year as the holidays approach my husband looks for gift ideas for me. Instead of asking purchased gifts I ask him to make things for me. This year, he made stackable jewelry trays that fit into my dresser drawers. I lined each tray with thick felt. I can store my jewelry neatly, and know exactly where everything is.s

Save the twist ties on your bread bags. They come in handy for keeping extension cords neatly organized. I also use them to stake up climbing plants.

The next time you need a bridal shower gift…watch garage sales or the resale shops. Look for a small photo album. Assemble a cookbook full of your favorite recipes and organize in a small photo album.

In the fall, when you trim your bushes and trees back save all of the clippings and cut into small pieces. This makes great kindling for starting fires in your outdoor fire pit.

Purchase and use cloth handkerchiefs. They are pretty, and save money.. no need to purchase kleenex anymore.

Start your garden from seeds…this will save you quite a bit of money.

Start or join a neighborhood plant swap. You will introduce new plants into your garden while sharing your extras…and maybe gain a friend in the process.

Periodically, wipe your stainless steel appliances with olive oil. You will be surprised how your appliances will shine, and you won’t have to purchase expensive stainless steel cleaner. You will also minimize your use of chemicals.

Save your toilet paper tubes. When your next party approaches, cover your toilet paper tubes with colored paper, stickers, stamped images or fancy paper, etc, fill with treats, tie the ends with yarn or leftover ribbon…you have an original and unique party favor. I use these for Halloween treats. The kids love them! You could also use this idea as a wedding party favor. They are pretty, and inexpensive.

In the fall, save your pumpkin seeds. You can either toast and salt them, you have a healthy treat. Or save them and participate in a seed swap.. your pumpkin repopulates itself each year.

My mom sews. I ask her for the leftover scraps of fabric from her projects and quilts. I make potholders out of the scraps and sell at a craft show. It costs me nothing, and I can make a profit…I use the proceeds to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause each year. I am keeping these things out of a landfill, making a unique product that everyone needs, and helping someone in the process. A win win!

Seed propogation. I save the plastic containers that deli meat come in. I turn the container in it’s lid, line with wet paper towels put my seeds on the paper towel, place the container on the lid and keep in the kitchen. I have had good luck starting seeds using this mechanism. I don’t have to worry about my seeds blowing away outside.

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