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Sneak a peek inside a frugal home

By on September 24, 2009

rubber band ball
photo by Mykl Roventine

Do you know a tightwad home when you’re inside one? For many people, penny-pinching strategies aren’t noticeable. However, if you’re frugal, you have an eagle’s eye. If you visited a fellow frugalista’s home, you could spot their frugal ways because you probably do them, too.

What in your home is a dead giveaway that you live a frugal life?

KITCHEN DRAWER: You might see saved rubber bands, free samples, pencil nubs (hey, they still have a point), bread twist ties, folded aluminum foil, used birthday candles, washed plastic baggies or saved bread bags to use for pet care.

FREEZER: What are all those baggies? They’re filled with overripe bananas, frozen pesto, broth, make-ahead meals, vegetables or leftovers, of course. You’ll see meat bought in bulk and divided into smaller meal-sized portions, too.

CUPBOARDS: There’s a full pantry. It often contains preserved foods from a home garden and a food stockpile bought when items were on sale. One reader, Polly in Pennsylvania, shares: “Homemade mixes line my pantry along with dried beans, rice, a 50-pound bag of potatoes and pecks of apples stored for winter. There’s a flyer on our icebox telling of the butcher’s latest chicken specials. It’s what you don’t see that’s more pronounced. No soda, no chips, no store-bought snack foods, no takeout containers, no bottled water, etc.” You would notice homemade cleaners in spray bottles and very few brand-name foods, too.

REFRIGERATOR: You would see reconstituted powdered milk, iced tea, water, block cheese to shred, bagged apples versus individual, and leftovers ready for lunch the following day. You would see seasonal fruits and vegetables (often pre-chopped), reusable containers, a few cartons of eggs bought on sale, homemade condiments, syrups and sauce, bulk yeast and maybe some chilling cookie dough.

SINK AND COUNTER AREA: You might see a spray bottle of dish liquid diluted with water to spritz dishes, a toothbrush for scrubbing, dishrags, knitted or crocheted pot scrubbers or dishcloths, microfiber cloths or washcloths versus paper towels. You would see a kitchen-counter composter (often a coffee container reused) and a change jar, too. Coffee drinkers will have a thermos or carafe to keep coffee hot throughout the day.

LAUNDRY ROOM: You would see the washing-machine water set to cold. You would see a drying rack or retractable clothesline and a laundry loot jar, too. Another reader, Mary in Texas, shares: “My laundry room is off the kitchen, and there are multiples of Zote soap, Borax and Super Washing Soda, plus a big plastic container of homemade laundry soap.”

APPLIANCES AND HELPFUL TOOLS: Most frugal homes have “tools of the trade” that help people save money. A few appliances that top the list are a food dehydrator, stand mixer and slow cooker. There’s a FoodSaver, food processor, grain mill or a spare freezer. Tools such as a calculator, canner, kitchen scale, manual can opener, box grater, rubber spatula, dry erase board, funnel, kitchen shears and cookbooks are incredibly helpful and are common to see in a frugal kitchen, too.


  1. Lea Ann Howell(New Leaf)

    9/24/2009 at 8:13 am

    You would also see rubber bins full of hand me down children’s clothes and shoes marked with the size and season, just waiting for the next child to grow into.

  2. Kimber

    9/24/2009 at 4:48 pm

    Sounds like my house LOL!

  3. Robyn

    9/24/2009 at 8:56 pm

    Food dehydrators are fairly inexpensive to operate. Across the U.S., on average, they cost about 7-8 cents max per hour. It is certainly less expensive to make your own jerky and dried fruit versus store bought. Tastes beter too!

  4. Polly

    9/25/2009 at 12:41 am

    Love Lea Ann’s comment. I pass clothing and shoes to my Sister. She has a large family and she’s gotten quite good at just what Lea Ann commented. Sometimes keeping a frugal home is all in the organizational skills. Lea Ann’s way of organizing yet to be grown into clothing is perfection. A well packed box clearly labeled ready to grab when a season has changed or a child hits a growth spurt is genius!

  5. Delores

    9/25/2009 at 10:33 am

    We’re raising our granddaughter and have had her since she was 14months. We are a member of a Grandparents Support Group and a Freecycle Group. She is now 5 and in school and I’ve had to buy her very little except for shoes and underwear. Thanks to others. I to have had 30gal plastic trash cans in the basement for clothes that she will be growing into and change of seasons. Have never had to buy a coat.

  6. Sara Noel

    9/25/2009 at 11:18 pm

    We store hand-me-down clothing in the large Rubbermaid totes.

  7. Monroe on a Budget

    9/27/2009 at 10:37 am

    Yes, as Sara notes, you would find in a frugal home a variety of cookbooks and a variety of kitchen appliances that are really used to make dinner with!

    You wouldn’t see my coupon box or sales fliers unless I was ready to go shopping or in the middle of a coupon-clipping task. But the coupon box would be one of my cupboards, and the sales fliers would be in a binder, and I’d show then to you if you asked.
    .-= Monroe on a Budget´s last blog ..Funkins fake pumpkins: frugal or frivolous? =-.

  8. Jeanna

    9/27/2009 at 3:34 pm

    I think I have everything except a grain mill, but oh I want one. I even bought broiler chicks and we are butchering them ourself.

  9. Simplelife2

    9/29/2009 at 2:33 pm

    It’s interesting to see how far I’ve come in seeing this description. Sounds just like me. My husband makes fun of me for re-using foil and baggies since there is always something out drying.

    I never heard of the spay bottle with soap. I’m definitely going to try that.

  10. Rhonda

    9/29/2009 at 3:47 pm

    I had to laugh at how much this sounds like my house. The spray bottle with dishsoap and water, that is a new one for me. I ‘ll have to try that. I heard my son talking to his girlfriend about my home made scrubbies (several of the net fruit bags with the metal clips and tags cut off and then tied in a knot). My family has gotten used to my idiosyncracies but they still have to explain often to “outsiders”!

  11. Debbie-cat

    10/2/2009 at 4:58 pm

    You described my house perfectly! 🙂

  12. melissa

    10/4/2009 at 8:36 pm

    A lot of that describes my house as well. I didn’t realize that i was living frugally lol. Another thing we do is make enough for supper at night for us to take some to work the next day instead of having to go buy lunch.

  13. Melissa

    10/8/2009 at 2:53 pm

    My house has loads of plastic bags from the store that get re-used as trash can liners in the small bins, lunch bags for work, picking up after pooch, as a cat box liner and stashed in the car for “just in case” and keeping it clean. I have several tension shower curtain rods that I use to “line dry” clothes for rainy or cold days. Clothes packed in my closet that were discounted for the kids to grow into from the season before (they are 6 & 4, so the Goodwill clothes are hard to find in good enough shape to send them to school in) and two 40 gallon storage containers that hold all the Christmas presents I bought last year after christmas or on sale. Once they are full, I am done. One 20 gallon container of spare birthday presents. A sewing machine, at least one bolt of muslin cloth (so veristile), and a jar full of knitting needles. This is the first time in 4 years I have purchased Halloween costumes and that was a special treat becuase they have been so helpful around the house. The kids can have them for the dress up bin afterwards!

  14. LAC

    12/18/2009 at 7:46 pm

    I know I am the “ODDBALL” at my job because I don’t wear designer clothing and I don’t eat or buy lunch at expensive “in” places to eat!
    I pack my lunch everyday and I shop the sales and I am very very frugal at home as well!

  15. Angie

    12/19/2009 at 5:29 pm

    I would also add that you wouldn’t see a lot of “the latest trend”.
    Most of what I have in my kitchen are hand-me downs or quality purchases made years ago. I still love the Henkel knives that were a wedding gift 23 years ago. I have my mother’s “kitchen machine” – a Braun standing mixer/blender/food processor that I don’t think is even made anymore. I have a spare coffee maker in the basement for when this onld ones dies – it just turns on & off, with no clock or programing or phantom power load.m We also have a lot of handmade items (throw pillows, afghans,clothing) from crafty friends or my sewing room.

  16. Alla

    7/9/2012 at 12:17 pm

    You think a dehydrator is frugal? Seriously you believe this? We’ve had two. We used the first one for two months and noticed that not only was it noisy, the electric bill went up by one-third. We assumed that was just the brand/model, so gave it away, and didn’t buy another till the same time of year. We used that also for the same two month period, and again noticed how horribly high the electric bill was.

    Then we got smart. We bought a very inexpensive box-fan, two big elastic bungee cords, and two large “furnace filters”. We lay the fan down on an old chair with no seat (airflow)… Lay a filter on it…. Lay the food or meat on the filter… Lay the second filter on that…. Fasten with bungees.

    It dries FASTER because there’s more air circulation. The fans, filter, and bungies still cost less than the dehydrator. Running the fans for several days straight makes absolutely NO noticable difference in our bill.

    My S-i-L did one better — She doesn’t use a fan at all. Granted, her part of Mizzourah isn’t as humid as our part, but what she does is — Filter, Food, Filter, tie with the cords — lay on an old lawn-lounger that’s missing all its straps.

    But I ain’t that cheap *wink

    I raise my own chickens, and while I actually don’t like chicken myself, the family does, and I make stock out of what’s not eaten.

    I absolutely refuse to by powdered milk; I trade eggs for real milk.

    When we buy household stuff, for the most part, we buy good — not necessarily cheap. Our Kitchen-Aid mixer is 42 years old… And works as well as it did the day I first plugged it in. We also make it a habit to take care of things and that includes maintainence — Simple stuff like oil and filter changes on the truck, having the hot water heater checked and drained regularly, cleaning the coils of the frige and the freezer.

    And you won’t see any of this other frugal stuff, UNLESS you open a drawer or cupboard — because we’re frugal about mental health care too, and clutter makes me crazy! Therefore, we stay fairly organised.

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