Jennifer’s Approach to Frugality

by Kelly · 12 comments

in Money & Spending

Kelly says: Jennifer, a regular reader, left the most amazing comment on the post about making do with what you’ve got. I didn’t want her comment to disappear into the bowels of the internet, never again to see the light of day, so I asked her permission to publish her comment as a post. She agreed and I hope you’ll appreciate her words of wisdom!

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 Β 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 fajitas 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.


1 Carla May 17, 2011

Wonderful post!! Love these ideas, and theyre not ones I’ve heard hundreds of times before! Thank-you!!

2 mike crosby May 17, 2011

I love learning things that I can apply immediately to my life.

Thank you. I like the idea of taking the onions, peppers and chicken and freezing them.

When you say you save $200, for me it’s a lot more consider I eat out at restaurants that sometimes I’m forced by custom. I’ll never forget the time on Mother’s Day where we went to a buffet and I had rice and beans. My cost was $100.00.

3 mmmmy May 21, 2011

Love the ideas of this particular reader, if I could I would garden, my husband is out in our lawn and where my rhubarb is daily no matter the weather, I pull weeds and tend to the rhubarb and my hubby’s lovely flowers, tulips, all kinds of flowers given to us for being friends of our friends..oh, my I love the comments, we go to the coast Oregon and Washington I always pack a nice lunch and we go to a supermarket for our dinner fixins, we collect agates and rocks, we watch the tides, walk along the coastline (safely) take pictures and sometimes we get chowder at a seafood place that gets clams that is their business, we hope to be able to relax soon..keep up the great blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4 khairulorama May 29, 2011

this is a great post. I guess, if everyone is as conscious as she is, then the world might be a better place to live in. Thanks again.

5 Debt Dewd June 2, 2011

What a cool post – so many great little ideas I haven’t really heard before.

Khairulorama is right – that is some very conscious living!


6 Emily June 11, 2011

Wow! I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to reading this! Jennifer, thank you for sharing your wisdom. And for the craving for white chicken chili. πŸ™‚

7 Tracy June 21, 2011

If at all possible, please post your spaghetti sauce recipe! I’m fairly good at growing food but not so good when it comes to creatively converting it into good, wholesome meals and preserving the harvest. Any tips, suggestions and recipes would be SO helpful!

8 Jen June 27, 2011

I am so flattered by the wonderful comments above. Thank you! Enclosed is a recipe for the sauce and a few additional ideas. I hope that they are helpful!

Recipe for spaghetti sauce:
Roma and regular tomatoes- Boil water and drop your tomatoes in, cook them just long enough to break the skins. Immerse in cold water and peel the skin from the tomatoes. Core the tomato and either smash or chop by hand or in your food processor.

I like to make this in bulk so you will to purchase the following items ahead of time. Brown sugar, butter, oregano, basil, salt, minced garlic, chopped onions, chopped peppers, and tomato paste.

Cook your chopped peppers, onions and garlic in olive oil until cooked, add tomatoes and cook until thick. Add in salt and your herbs (oregano and basil), you can add anise seeds for a mildly sweet flavor. Stir in brown sugar and butter to give it a sweet flavor. I am a cook to taste type of cook so I generally am not precise in my measurements…just taste it and tweak the ingredients until you find your own flavor.

While it’s cooking I clean my jars in hot water. In a small pan boil some water, add the lids and cook for a few minutes. When the sauce is REALLY hot, scoop it into your jars, clean the rim with a clean washcloth, top with the lid and screw the ring on tight. I immediately invert my jars of sauce for a few minutes. Once I have filled all of my jars and cleaned up my kitchen I turn the jars right side up and you will hear them pop very quickly ( a sign that they are sealing). Check the lids to make sure that they have sealed (the heat from the sauce will create a vacuum); the lid will indent…proof that the jar has sealed. If the jar doesn’t seal you can do a hot water bath, or put the sauce in the frig and serve it in a day or two. Let the jars rest until cooled. Label your sauce with the date. I usually store mine in the basement.

While we are on the subject of canning….watch garage sales in your area for cheap jars…or save your glass mayo jars…they work well too (keep them out of the landfill). When you give a gift in a jar away, just ask that your jar is returned to you when it is emptied. People will happily give you a jar back if they know that you are likely to deliver something wonderful in it again!

We watch our newspaper and farmers markets for u pick fruits and vegetable farms. Two weeks ago, strawberries were in season. My husband and I picked two trays of strawberries, came home and cleaned the berries. We sorted the berries according to size, and individually froze the bigger berries on cookie sheets (when frozen transferred to ziploc bags- more on this in a moment) and used the smaller sweeter berries for jam. We made 40 jars of strawberry jam within a few hours. A jar of good strawberry jam here in Wisconsin is about $3.50. With $30.00 in berries, a 5 lb bag of sugar and two packages of Sure-gel we made a lot of jam. ..$140.00 in jam for less than $40.00. That’s $100.00 savings.

Watch for cheap baskets or containers at your favorite local thrift shop or garage sale. Stock up. We plan to make raspberry and blackberry jam yet this summer…When the holidays come, I will make home made scones and deliver them in baskets with 3 different home made jams….your gift giving is complete. It’s thoughtful, a gift from the heart, and everyone loves home made things.

So back to those frozen berries. Make smoothies with them. You don’t need ice, just add milk, protein (if you are into whey protein), bananas or other fresh fruit, or add some yogurt. It’s super healthy, and super yummy!

I love Hummingbirds! If you have a hummingbird feeder make your own hummingbird food. Boil 1 cup of water, add 1 cup of suger and dissolve. Add 2-3 more cups of water and stir so sugar is completely dissolved. Store in an old milk container…make sure you mark it so you don’t think it’s Cool Aid and drink it. πŸ™‚ EWW!!!

There are a couple of good books out there called the Cheapskate next door. I read both of his books, cover to cover! He’s brilliant and has so many great ideas that your readers would love. You can read sections of his book on Yahoo, or go to the library in your town and check the book for a week…for free!

Preserving foods. I think the key to harvesting food is buy foods that you like, when it is plentiful and cheap. The key is freezer space and canning jars. We watch the circulars from local grocery stores and really watch the meat advertisements. At Thanksgiving we buy a couple of extra smaller turkeys and put them in the freezer. Buy an extra ham or two at Easter,and freeze it…just don’t forget you have it. This summer for Father’s Day we smoked a (leftover/extra) turkey and invited both sets of parents over for a home cooked meal. I think we paid 29 cents a pound for the turkey. A 15 pound turkey cost $5.00. No expensive dinners out, just a home made (and healthy) dinner with family. My parents are aging and they really appreciate the effort that I make to cook for them…and this gives me piece of mind to know that they are eating something healthy. We made home made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers, and froze it…another dinner on one of those “what’s for dinner? nights.

If you live in the city and don’t have space for garden, grow a couple of veggies in pots…or watch your farmers markets at the end of the season. Many times farmers will sell you their produce at cheaper price at the end of the market…they still get some money for their produce, it doesn’t go to waste, and you get a better deal. That’s a win win for everyone.

Be prepared to spend some time cleaning, preparing and packaging your food when you get home…this will save you a lot of time and money later. Freeze your veggies on cookie sheets and transfer them to freezer bags later.

Make home made cookie dough and freeze it in individual cookies….you know those packages of cookie dough you buy in the dairy section at the grocery store? You are paying for the convenience. Make the dough yourself, freeze it, and transfer to a freezer bag. The next time you want a cookie, open the freezer!

I am fascinated with the Great Depression! I wonder about it a lot in difficult economic times, and I wonder how people fed themselves, managed to stay in their homes, and keep their families together. I think that people of this generation survived because they were resourceful, they didn’t waste anything. They recycled ribbons, wrapping paper, bags, clothes, nothing was thrown away. We have a lot to learn from history. Find a way to use everything you have.

My husband and I took a little trip an hour outside of Madison to visit an Amish community. I was curious and amazed…people after my own heart. Their homes were neat and clean, flowers everywhere, beautiful gardens, wonderful bakery, and they make the most amazing quilts, baskets and furniture….and their products last a lifetime. Things I learned from them, if you are going to buy something, make sure it’s well made so you only need to purchase it once, take good care of your things and they will last a lifetime. I bought a clothes drying rack from the Amish and we haven’t used the dryer since. There is nothing more heavenly than slipping into cool clean sheet that smell like fresh air on a summer day. Sometimes we will sprinkle the sheets with just a dusting of baby or fragrant powder.

We wash and wax our own cars. Savings- $20.00 a week (for 2 cars). Even if you wash your car every other week, that is a savings of $520.00 a year.

Put a basket on your bike, and bike to the store next time you need a few things. You save money on gas, get some exercise and don’t buy things that you don’t need. You have limited space in your basket.

I was lucky, my friend Allen built a removeable clothes line for me. (Instructions on the internet). He dug two holes (about 15 feet apart)in the back yard, cemented a two foot section pvc pipe into each hole. Assembled clothes lines out of metal pipes and a package of rope. The clothes lines fit into the pvc cemented (in ground) pipes. When the clothes are dry I take the clotheslines down and put them in the garage. The beauty of this is I can dry my clothes in the fresh air (in warm weather), save money (and wear and tear on the dryer) and I can take the clothesline down when I finish using it…it’s not an eyesore.

I like to use baking soda on occassion when I vacuum the carpets. When it’s time to clean the fridge and replace the baking soda I use the “old” refrigerator baking soda on the carpets. It’s great for freshening up the carpet…no need to buy those carpet deoderizers.

This past winter I repurposed a couple of old three ring binders. I purchased a box of those clear plastic sleeves from the office supply store. I am really bad at keeping my instruction manuals, warranties and important papers organized. I created 1 folder for product manuals, warranties, etc. I used another binder to save my investment documents, and a third for bank, credit card statements, loan paperwork, etc. They are stored together in 1 place so I know exactly where to find everything now. (I wish I had done this years ago.)

This isn’t really a frugal tip, but I think it’s still a good one. If you have a camcorder (borrow or rent one) and go through your house and video tape everything you have. Not just your jewelry and your expensive electronics…but your closets, your drawers, your china cabinet, your basement, your garage, your tools, your dishes. It takes a lifetime and a lot of money to furnish a home. I am willing to bet that people who lose their homes to fires, and theft never recover the value of what they lost because they didn’t take the time to document what they have. The beauty of a video or photos is that you have proof of what you own…so if you have to replace it…you can have a reasonable idea of it’s value.

Feel free to post this,if you think other people will find it beneficial…I’m happy to share!

9 WolfSong July 4, 2011

I just have to point out something…your method of canning the tomato sauce is not an approved canning method, and I would caution anyone against using it, if they are planning on storage of the sauce outside of the fridge. In order for jars to be shelf stable, heat processing is a must! I will also add that adding in the onions, peppers and garlic will affect the acidity level, and could make the sauce unsafe to water bath process. In which case, it will need to be pressure canned.

I would suggest anyone who is interested in canning should pick up-or borrow from the library!-a copy of the Ball Blue Book. Also known as the canner’s bible…or, check out this website:

10 Jen July 6, 2011


I appreciate your comments, thank you. I probably didn’t clarify in my previous comments on pasta sauce, I bring the sauce to a full rolling boil for a period of time before canning it. I certainly am not suggesting that I am an expert at any USDA approved cooking methods. For those interested in canning there are many resouces available on the subject, as you suggested. The intent of my message was to share ideas on how I save money by doing some of my own food preparation and other types of ideas. I would like to thank Kelly for sharing so many wonderful ideas on this blog, encouraging other people to come forward and share their ideas. And I would like to thank her for thinking enough of my efforts to want to share them with others.

11 WolfSong July 6, 2011


You have some great methods of frugality, and some awesome tips. Thanks for taking the time to share them!

I only posted my comment because inversion canning isn’t safe. Without the process-the time after the product has been put in the jar-there is no way to remove the risk of bacterial contamination. Your kitchen can be spotless, you can boil your sauce for an hour before inversion canning, and you can still have contaminated food. The only way to be sure, in canning, is to heat process all jars, whether by water bath or pressure canning. For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to read about unsafe canning methods:
Anyone choosing to use unsafe canning methods should be sure to know the symptoms of botulism.
Not trying to be an alarmist, however, botulism can cause permanent nerve damage, and even death.

Being frugal is wonderful, but we should also strive for safe frugality.


12 Tracy July 1, 2011

THANK YOU!!!!!!!

You sound very much like me! I too have a fascination with the Depression and the Amish. My Gran, the 3rd child of poor farmers, lived through the depression and I love talking to her and learning from her. I once watched her scoop up guava peels that someone was going to toss in the trash, muttering that you can’t throw food away. She took them home in a plastic bag and proceeded to make delicious guava jelly from them!

Now for that strawberry jam recipe πŸ™‚ We (in South Africa) currently have them selling cheaply. I was thinking of making jam but am a little afraid of spending money on the ingredients and botching it. I know the basics of jam-making and successfully make my own marmalade and plum jam, so I’m not entirely clueless.

Thank you Almost Frugal for allowing this little conversation to happen here. It is helping me (perhaps others too) so much!

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