My Frugal Life: Six Decades of Frugality

I can't remember a time when I was not frugal. My parents were young during the big depression so I learned "thrift" early on. Now at 63 with my hubby at 67, we find that frugality is what allows us to survive.


Fifteen years ago, I purchased ten wetland acres with a small inheritance that my father left me. Soon, my husband and I took it from nothing to a wonderful homestead. We use two acres of it and save the other eight acres for the wildlife that abound here in southern Alabama.

Recently my husband had a shop built and moved his auto body shop business out here. It is nice to have him so close at hand and easier on him in his advancing age. He can charge his customers less since he no longer has to pay the high rent he was paying and they certainly appreciate that!

I have been selling native plants and seeds from our place for over a decade so we both run businesses from here and have little need to go out except for a few groceries that we need.

We turned an acre where our home sits into a park-like setting. I have been doing a religious mosaic mural on the home over the past ten years using all manner of materials, from shells to stones to stained glass and ceramic tiles. Delivery men have actually brought their cameras to take pictures of it when dropping off a package!


We grow all our own vegetables in raised beds using the Lasagna Gardening method and Square Foot Gardening together. This helps us keep our chest freezer full all year until the next season rolls around. It also enables us to share our bounty with others by using the most space the most efficiently.

We have lots of wild blueberry, blackberry, and muscadine grapes on the property that we pick and make freezer jams, syrups, cobblers, and muffins with throughout the year. What we don't turn into jam and syrup is frozen for the baked goods.

In order to save money, I hang all our laundry outside on some lines across two trees which my husband put up. He did it with eye screws in order not to damage the trees by girdling. No, this does not damage the trees as they will grow new tissue around the eye screws. This alone saves us a tremendous amount of money every year. When I found out how much it cost to run an electric clothes dryer, I was astounded!


I also turn my electric hot water heater off at night. It is still hot by morning when I need it and I turn it back on for night time baths/showers. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the drop in our electric bill when I started doing this many decades ago.

Some other ways that I am frugal is saving the bread and bun plastic wrappers. I use them for food storage. Some I cut up into squares or circles for covering a container that doesn't have a lid. I wash them in the washer or sink with the dishes and save them until they can no longer be used. And yes, I wash my dishes by hand. I found that was saving me a ton of money on both electric and water bills. You can't let the water just keep running though. I let the dishes soak overnight. They can be quickly washed since all the dirt has melted off overnight. I put them in the other side of the double sink and then rinse them quickly with the hose which only takes about a minute.


Since we live in the steamy, deep south, I only do baking from October through April. It is just too hot otherwise. I freeze as many meals as I can by doing "once a month freezer cooking". I make more than I need at every meal and will also freeze the extra. Then when the hot months roll around all, I have to do is defrost something from the freezer and heat it up in the microwave.

Speaking of freezers, if you have one, then make sure you keep it either stock full of food or water bottles. A freezer is surprisingly economical to run if kept full of frozen items. What I do is replace items with water bottles, if I take something out and don't have another food item to put in its place. Also, chest freezers are much more economical to run that upright. Of course, manual defrost is definitely the way to go.


It only takes me a couple of hours to defrost my freezer each February or March. I leave the door up and as soon as the ice on the sides starts to melt, I remove the big chunks to the sink. A quick swish with some bath towels on the sides and bottom, replace the items removed and the job is done. Most of the time is spent waiting for the ice to melt and not in the actual cleaning part.

Here are a few more freezer tips I've learned over the years. First, I use some Rubbermaid tubs to fit into my freezer and stack them in such a way that it is easy to see what I am looking for. That means just removing one of the tubs then sliding the rest around back and forth or side to side. I also like to use storage zip lock bags when I can as they are cheaper than the vacuum bag systems and even the freezer zip lock bags.


I find no freezer burn so they are obviously working well. If you flatten out your ground beef into the poundage you will use in the bags (say one pound), then you can stack a surprising amount while taking up very little room in your freezer. Always mark your bags as to contents and date.

Cleaners: I make my own cleaners except for laundry detergent. I find the cheap brands of detergent are actually cheaper than making my own from the recipes online and get my laundry nice and clean. My other cleaners consist of the old standby of vinegar and water, to which I add a squirt of dish soap. I can use this cleaner on most of my counters in the kitchen and windows and glass. I still use bathroom foam cleaner for the bathrooms, though. It just seems to work the best.

For my floors, I love the steam mop my hubby bought me a few years ago. It is the best way to clean a floor, in my opinion, and I would be hard pressed to give it up. We have an aging Chihuahua who has become incontinent at times and I just use the steam mop on her accidents. Everything is left clean and sterile, which is what is important.

Here is a tip that I wish I could shout to the world. DON'T USE THE TOILET CLEANERS THAT YOU PUT IN THE TANK! These will wreck all of your rubber seals in your toilets and I know this for a fact. We had to replace every seal in both toilets a few years ago and it was not fun! After doing a search online, I found out what was causing the problem and have never used that type of product again. I spray a little bleach in the toilet instead and let it sit for five minutes. Brush and it comes out perfectly clean without damaging the working parts.

Well, I could go on and on about my frugal ways. After all, I've been around a long time and learned a lot over the years but I will stop here and wish you all a blessed day.

By littlegamma from Southern, AL

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August 3, 20110 found this helpful

Really good read. It would be just wonderful to live the way your husband
and you do with enough land to have a nice productive garden, and enough
to leave in a wild state just for the beauty of it.

We use most of your frugal ways when it comes to doing dishes, laundry
and our chest freezer which saves us the most money of all, I think.

I thoroughly enjoyed your posting. Thank you for taking the time to
share it with us.


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August 5, 20110 found this helpful

I loved reading your blog! I am so glad you are caring for wildlife by giving them a part of your land! How wonderful! That sounds like a beautiful piece of art that you are working on. My dad did that in a house he built in Virginia, it is round house in Abingdon Va. They have since sold it, but it is beautiful and up on a hill.

My Dad moved us up here and as soon as he got us up here and settled down, he passed away, he had cancer and he would not let go until he found us a house. That is a wonderful idea you have about putting the bread wrappers into squares and using them for covers! All it would take would be a rubber band! I love this and I am going to start doing it.

I have to do my own dishes anyway and I don't 'mind doing them. I was interested to find out about the toilet cleaners that go into the tank, I am not going to use those and thanks for the tip!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas!

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August 5, 20110 found this helpful

Love your post! I do make most of my cleaning supplies as well as laundry detergent, which costs me 1.90 for 10 gallons-not kidding! Am getting into gardening and hoping to learn how to can, you are an inspiration to all of us!

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January 30, 20120 found this helpful

I enjoyed reading your post so much. I too live in southern al. & practice all the frugal ways I can. I raised 2 girls by myself & being frugal helped, but Jesus most of all was my help. Would love to see your religious land space--thanks for the great post. God bless.

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