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My Top Ten Most Favorite Frugal Things

by Shawanda Greene

In the spirit of the Valentine’s season, I’d like to take a few moments to express my love and appreciation for those that have saved me money.

TEN

Comet

Comet

There was a time when I adored Scrubbing Bubbles for bathtub basin cleaning. Like many things that were once awesome, they don’t make it like they used to. I forget the price of Scrubbing Bubbles, but I know it’s more expensive than a 21 ounce container of Comet. The powdered concoction doesn’t always – okay, ever – come out smoothly, but it works. For $1, what more could you ask for?

NINE

Vinegar

Vinegar

Just a spoon full of vinegar helps the medicine go down…. Hmm. That’s not how the song goes.

Vinegar is a recent frugal discovery for me. Before rooming with someone who used it as a cleansing agent, I thought vinegar was created solely for the purpose of pickling. It’s really cheap. I might have gotten the bottle pictured for maybe $1.75. Ol’ school abrasives like Comet are best reserved for areas that require a bit more elbow grease to get clean. Vinegar works well for wiping down surfaces that are only slightly dirty.

EIGHT

Magic Bullet

Magic Bullet

Aw, the Magic Bullet. Did you know I had this thing for about three years before I actually used it? I have a parent who enjoys a little late night infomercial shopping. It didn’t cost me a dime, but looks like Amazon sales them for $55.

At first, I only used it for mixing protein shakes. Then, I scrounged up enough courage to make a smoothie with it. If you’ve ever purchased a protein shake at the gym or bought a sugar laden smoothie from a retailer, then you know how pricey they both can be. I recently used my Magic Bullet to puree a can of pinto beans to thicken chili. I wonder what else it’s good for.

SEVEN

Dry Milk

Dry Milk

I’ve really tried to cut back on the amount of milk I drink. I know governmental food folks tell us milk is rich in calcium. Thus, it’s important for bone health, but I’m not convinced the benefits out way the costs.

What I’m about to say may gross you out, so look away if you don’t want me to make you mildly disgusted.

My mucus production raises dramatically with an increase in milk consumption. But I’m not ready to swear off the stuff altogether. I still like it with cookies and cake. I also use it in recipes. Since I’m prone to recreational milk drinking, I don’t like to have the ready made version in my house.

I think this box only cost me about $7 or $8. You’re probably thinking, “That’s $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon!” That’s not too bad for a gallon of milk. Plus, I don’t have to worry about spoilage. I just make it as I need it.

SIX

Salsa Jar

Salsa Jar

Salsa jars are the gifts that keep on giving. After inhaling a jar of $3 salsa, you’re left with a high quality storage container or drinking glass. Whatever you like.

What’s that in my salsa jar, you say? Bacon fat, baby. I get so disappointed when a recipe calls for bacon fat, and I don’t have any on hand. Problem solved.

FIVE

Ramen & Tuna Fish

Ramen & Tuna Fish

I know they have MSG in them, but when I’m desperate for something to eat, Ramen noodles are my go to fix. Pair them with a can of tuna fish, and you got yourself something that almost looks like a meal. Throw in a cup of mixed vegetables, and you’re there for less than a $1.50.

FOUR

Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker

Hey, precious. This little rascal cost me $50, but it opened my eyes to a whole new world of cheap meat and dry beans. A few weeks ago, I caught a sale on chuck roast at the supermarket. I can’t wait to cook another beef stew this week. After only 8 short hours in the slow cooker, I’ll have myself a hearty, juicy, and savory meal.

THREE

Beans

Beans

What’s not to love about beans? They’re affordable, versatile, filling, delicious, and nutritious. A standard sized can of cooked beans run me anywhere from $0.65 to $1.00 a can. I can’t pay more than a dollar. It just doesn’t feel right. That bag of cooked frozen beans pictured above represent half a bag of uncooked dry beans that cost about $1.50.

TWO

Tap Water

Tap Water

Let me just say, I don’t know if that’s a BPA laden gallon of water or not. All I know is tap water costs only pennies a gallon. I could buy a filter, but I haven’t loosened the purse strings enough to invest in one. In the mean time, I’ll keep reusing and refilling my old water jug.

ONE

Andre

Andre

Andre you make me feel like a queen. For a mere $5 a bottle, I can sip sparkling wine from a $2 Ikea wine glass with my feet propped up on a foot locker doubling as a coffee table that I practically pulled out of the dumpster. *deep breath in and out* Andre, you’re too good to me.

This article was featured in the Festival of Frugality – Snowpocalypse Edition. Check out the other articles at Simply Forties.

What are some of your favorite frugal things?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

LeanLifeCoach February 10, 2010 at 1:43 AM

Flour! Fresh home made bread and pizza, you can't go wrong there!

Curious… Do you strain the bacon fat? How long does it last? And, what is a common use for it?

Reply

Shawanda February 10, 2010 at 2:11 AM

You can make a lot of stuff with flour. I almost made some pancakes from scratch this past weekend, which I've never done, then I found a box of pancake mix in the fridge.

I don't strain the bacon fat. I just let the pieces settle at the bottom of the jar. The only thing is the fat solidifies in the refrigerator then you put on another layer of fat and the pieces settle again which means there will be layers of bacon pieces in your jar. If you leave it out, that won't be an issue.

You can add bacon fat in beans or greens or to fry eggs or meat. I even saw a Martha Stewart cookie recipe that called for it. Strange, I know.

As far as shelf life goes, I have no idea. My mom has a pretty scientific way of testing whether bacon fat has gone bad…smell it.

Reply

ToyLady February 10, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Mmm. . . bacon fat! I use it to grease the pan for cornbread. . . fry eggs in . . . .use it in biscuits . . . and I'm pretty sure it lasts half of forever in the fridge. I don't strain it, either.

And I LOVE my mini-blender, too – I make smoothies for breakfast every other day – no sugar, no ice cubes, just fruit, yogurt and a little juice. Every now and then, I break it out for salad dressing, but it's usually just as easy to whisk it.

Reply

Shawanda February 10, 2010 at 4:09 PM

I remember my mom would save bacon fat when I was growing up. I paid no attention to what she used it for. Turns out, she used it for many things. She even fried fish in it. I didn't know bacon fat was so versatile.

I make my smoothies pretty much like you do, except I leave out the yogurt. I'll even make green smoothies in the Magic Bullet. I use spinach, a ripe banana, and almond milk or vanilla soy milk. Any other green leafy vegetable, and I have to break out the Vita-Mix.

Reply

Erica February 10, 2010 at 3:04 PM

I just wanted to say I got my magic bullet at Big Lots for only $9.99 (gotta love close out places!). I love it. It has so many uses and has lasted longer than my blender and food processor.

My favorite frugal things are beans, lentils, rice and flour. I can buy them in bulk from my food co-op and save even more. I love my sewing machine too. It's a singer from the 1960s, I got it for $20 on Craigslist. Since it's older, it has mostly metal bits and is really built to last. I use it for tailoring my own clothes and making little things for around the house!

Reply

Shawanda February 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM

I wish there was a Big Lots near me. Frugal folks seem to love it.

I've never cooked lentils. I hear they're easier to prepare than beans. I'll have to keep my eyes open for markdowns on them.

Your sewing machine reminded me of a frugal thing that I don't get to use as that often anymore, but was a lifesaver when my job required me to dress in business casual attire.

The hem would fall out of my dress pants after about one or two wearings. There's a roll of double sided iron on adhesive that you can get from Walmart for like a dollar and something that takes care of that problem. It even stays strong after many washings.

Reply

Tia Jones February 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM

My toaster oven, you can put cold french fries in it and they taste like new. Also, I love my mini crock pot (Don’t Hate), and my box of wine.

Reply

Shawanda February 10, 2010 at 4:20 PM

I didn't know cold french fries could be redeemed. Thanks for the tip.

I wish there was a web site I could go to and buy deeply discounted boxed wine.

Reply

Tiffany Thompson February 10, 2010 at 11:27 PM

LOL! Ramen made the list. Now THAT is what I'm talking about. That's one of my favorites!

Reply

Shawanda February 10, 2010 at 11:56 PM

When I graduated from college, I had over $3,000 in credit card debt. I ate Ramen noodles and tuna fish almost everyday until I paid it off. A pack of Ramen was $0.10 and my mama would give me packets of tuna fish. I could have lunch for a dime. Because of health reasons, I wouldn't encourage anyone else to choose this path…unless they're going to eat something that's equally unhealthy and exponentially more expensive.

Reply

carla February 11, 2010 at 8:05 AM

Unfortunately I cant eat ANY of the things on your list and even a lot of foods that are considered frugal. The best I can do is fresh fruits and vegetables. All (or most) in season and local is the way to go. I try to get fish that's caught locally and in season. Organic nuts and seeds can be pricey, but they do go a long way. (Food allergies, and insulin resistance would do that to you! No eggs, dairy, soy, gluten starches, legumes)

Reply

Shawanda February 12, 2010 at 2:26 AM

:( Not being able to have beans would just make me sad, but it seems like you're forced to eat a healthy diet, right?

Reply

carla February 12, 2010 at 3:59 AM

Yes – and I wouldn't change a thing. :) It all works out in the end.

Reply

Lulu February 11, 2010 at 5:50 PM

I love your list of frugal things and this has just inspired me. I would add ammonia to my list as I use a bit of it in the laundry as well. I swear I use less soap now and the clothes come out so fresh smelling. I use a drying rack instead of the dryer and the clothes used to be a bit stiff but since I started adding ammonia they are just as soft as the clothes dried in the drier.

Reply

Shawanda February 12, 2010 at 2:30 AM

Thanks! I had no idea you could use ammonia for laundry. I've always been afraid of the stuff. Now that you've told me of a new use for it, I'll have to look into this further. Especially with it being so cheap and all.

Reply

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