The Art of Frugality

"Let each man practice the art."

It is an ancient art.  It's practice has been recorded as far back as that ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates (about 399 B.C.).  It's nurture, or neglect, has influenced the rise and fall of nations and civilizations.  Abandoning it has been the ruin of fortunes.  Embracing it amplifies wealth and can dispel the state of poverty.

 What is this ancient art of which I speak?  Frugality.  A humble word, it is derived from two ancient Latin words, frugalis and frux, both meaning..."success".  You may call it by other names such as prudence, sparingness and thrift, whatever your choice may be it always means the unwillingness to squander goods and spend money unnecessarily.  It is the careful use of goods and resources. 

 The quality of being frugal is one so powerful as to change  lives and affect history.  Each of us possesses the ability to exercise it.  Frugality allows you to govern your destiny and produce in your life a lovely fertile garden of material and intangible wealth.  Without it, you may be tossed upon the waves of circumstance, at the mercy of your unorganized whims.


(Exercising) The Art of Frugality. 

Benjamin Franklin wisely reminds us to "beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." While striving to patch the perennial litany of small leaks in my own ship, I've often been comforted and inspired by like-minded souls along the way.  

I confess to being compelled to frugal home-keeping action whenever I visit my blog friend Terri's  blog. It's long been my go-to site on those lazy days when I don't feel like getting much accomplished.  Terri's down-to-earth writing and ability to get the necessary tasks done seem to push my own 'get moving' button!  For several years now I've been motivated to action when reading her classic, tried-and-true frugal tricks and tips as she menu plans, money manages and enjoys the luxuries of a simple life with her family.  In fact, it  was Terri's long-standing "Frugal Fridays", "Thrifty Thursday" and "Frugal Week" posts that have inspired me to create my own ongoing accountability list by way of this and future posts celebrating the Art of Frugality.  (Of course, barring any more broken bones and mandatory computer sharing.)

And then there is  Manuela , who never fails to spark my creative money-saving muse by way of her new "Home Sweet Frugal Home" series.  Speaking of creativity and like-minded souls who inspire; I mustn't neglect to mention kindred spirit muses such as my old friends Brenda, Mary Ellen and Clarice... as well as a multitude of talented others! Isn't that the beauty of the internet?  What a rich resource... a wonderland of generosity and an abundance of gathering places for the like-minded... but I do digress. 


Alright my sweet friends, enough of my ramblings.
Here are some of the ways I've recently exercised the art of frugality...plugging the small leaks in my ship.  

  • I spent an early morning (before day-break, to avoid turning the oven on during the heat of the day) stocking my freezer with home-baked coconut muffins (gluten and sugar free).  These are surprisingly easy to put together and  are much less expensive than the store bought varieties--I will share the recipe in a future post. Update: You will find the recipe HERE.


  • I began my Christmas list in earnest (I give it thought all year round, as you may already know) using this form printed out from my second book (Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons). With the holidays only a few months away I don't want to get caught short on time, money or gifts.

Note: Please feel free to enlarge and print out this form for your personal use if you'd like. 

  •  While Christmas was on my mind I decided to "work ahead of need".  I've made a habit of saving the coffee canisters that house my favorite Italian roast coffee from Trader Joe's.  They are made of a nice, heavy cardboard, with a silver-foil lining on the inside.   I re-purpose them by painting the outsides white using ordinary acrylic wall paint and a brush.  (I paint them all white to create a more uniform look.) The paint is usually left over from home projects or from cans of mistake-paint bought from the hardware store for a dollar or two (or less).   For this particular project I used a water based primer as the first coat because I wanted to use it up (it works well because it's white).  Note: Oil based primer and paint do NOT work well on cardboard as they don't dry well.  This project is super easy and, once they're dry,  these canisters offer a multitude of storage and organizing solutions.  I use them a lot in the food and craft pantries for storing supplies. That being said, this batch is earmarked for packaging holiday gifts. At the moment I'm thinking of using them as gift packaging for tidy stacks of holiday cookies or a delicious batch of homemade Poppycock...or???  This picture shows them with only one coat of paint as, due to the bright colors on the canisters, they take two quick coats.  As is my habit, I usually put on a movie while working.   Oh, while I had the paint out, I also painted some of my dad's cardboard cigar boxes to store craft supplies and use as gift boxes (you can see them in the background).

  • We are still fighting those pesky spider mites in the garden.  I used an inexpensive mix of hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dish soap and water (mixed in a repurposed Windex bottle) to spray them.  This is the third week I've sprayed and it looks as if they're almost gone.  I read about this remedy after searching for a frugal, environmentally friendly  solution online.  Unfortunately I found it after the tomato plants were destroyed. 

  • After discovering several  tiny volunteer tomato plants, I moved them to where I wanted them in the garden.  Hopefully it's not too late in the season.  My goal is for them to, eventually, replace the ones destroyed by the spider mites.  I'm not sure how they'll do but will keep an eye out for any more pests and, if needed, catch them early! Also, I would love to get a crop of greens and more herbs in our little garden area but the house is in the process of being repaired and painted this week and I think it's probably wise to wait until the painters are done before planting anything else.

  • Mike and I saved $100 by heavily trimming the climbing rose bush and Morning Glories growing on our Pergola.  It's getting a new coat of paint along with the house.  The painters offered to reduce $100 off the price if we did the trimming work ourselves.  It only took about an hour with both of us working.

  • Shopped my pantry and freezer when creating this weeks' menu.  The only purchases needed were fresh milk and produce.  The milk is never inexpensive, sadly, but we are blessed with an abundance of very well priced produce from the family farm stands near my dad's house.  We tend to visit him once a week and stock-up while we're down there, rarely spending more than ten dollars for bags of seasonal goodies.  Last week I bought three HUGE zucchini for $1 and stocked-up on fresh tomatoes (5 for $1), full size salad cucumbers (3 for $1), large Mexican round squash (3 for $1) plus limes, lemons and oranges for juicing (all for a song).  My plan is to make low carb pizza using saucer-sized slices of the huge zucchini as a crust, and use the Mexican round squash (they look like pumpkin shaped watermelon) in frittatas and diced up in a taco soup (they are neutral in taste and look like diced potatoes when used in soups and other recipes but... are low carb!).  I think I may roast the rest of the veggies/squash, if the weather stays cool, and use them as a side dish.  This time of year I always overbuy on the bargain tomatoes and quick freeze them whole, using them for cooking throughout the winter.  I've been doing this for years now and never have to buy canned tomatoes.  You can learn how easy it is HERE!

  • Mike took his lunch to work every day this week.  To be honest, this has long been our habit as it saves so much money and is much healthier than restaurant food, in my opinion.  I included filtered water from home using the empty bottles I'd saved from a case of bottled water we bought on sale a few weeks ago.

  • Rosie and I didn't go to Starbucks this week on our usual morning. (We have a little ritual of "Mommy/Rosie Time"... a fun thing we've done since the kids were little.)  Instead I made us a creamy cafe' au lait  at home and served it to her in her favorite white ceramic Starbucks cup as we sat on the sofa and talked.

  • Decanted a finished batch of Kumbucha this week and filled up six more bottles.  I'm trying my hand at a second fermentation which (hopefully) will make it taste more like the store bought variety that I love.  I also took an extra SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast--this ferments the kumbucha tea) to my dad's house and started a batch there so I will have it to enjoy when I visit.  I  wish I could get him to drink it as it's said to be so good for health.  However, he won't even try it, he says it smells too vinegar-y which surprises me as he loves vinegar and sour things.  I have a hunch the real problem is that the SCOBY (floaty thing inside) creeps him out a bit.  I suspect this because he never even wants to look at it.  I told him it was alive (it is) and to be nice to it so it'll give us (me) tastier kumbucha. ;-)  

  • Started a new batch of kumbucha to replace the one I decanted.  It should be ready to drink in a few weeks.

  • I went through our bank statement and found an item that was double charged...made a phone call and got the credit.

  • Reduced our Netflix bill to watch online only. For years we subscribed to the three DVD rental as well as the online watching (primarily for Rosie).  However, between working and school, she no longer has as much time for watching movies (sometimes they weren't being watched at all). 

  • Helped Rosie sell some things on ebay that were cluttering up the house.

  • I didn't have mayonnaise for the Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches I made for dinner one night so I used coconut oil instead.  No one even noticed!  In the interest of full disclosure, however, our family is a bit odd in the BLT department. Everyone (except me) eats them with peanut butter on one side and mayonnaise on the other.  This may be why the mayonnaise wasn't missed.  

  • Mike and I went to Goodwill and found a new keyboard for his old Dell computer for a mere $3!   His old keyboard broke months ago and he hasn't been able to use the computer at all (unable to move around in it or type commands etc.).  We were excited to find a replacement as it allows us to get a little more use out of the old dinosaur (it's verrry old and slow!).  He claims it works for him as he only uses it to read news articles, check sports scores and email.  But I can tell that even he is getting tired of the slow speed and constant glitches.  Eventually, we will need to invest in a new computer. We are thinking about an iPad for him as they are quite reasonable now and, obviously, portable.  Walmart had them online for as low as $339.  It would serve his needs and is much less expensive than a fairly basic Dell desktop, but we're still researching our options.

How have you practiced the art of frugality lately?


Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...


I agree, the internet is a rich resource and I read the blogs of most the women you mention.

I love coconut! I don't have to eat gluten free but I'd love to see the recipe.
What a great idea to upcycle those coffee canisters. Have you thought about using some of the image transfers from the Graphics Fairy on the front of them? I think that would be really pretty.

Yay for you for finding that mistake on your statement. Also, great produce deals. The zucchini as pizza crust sounds intriguing. Let us know how that works out.

Maybe if you got your father one of the fruit flavored kombuchas just to try - he might give yours a try. I don't think they have has much scoby visable and mostly taste like fizzy fruit drink to me. I miss the original kombucha before Whole Foods pulled it off it's shelves. The same brand just doesn't taste the same to me now.

I'm mostly trying to get the fall/winter veggie garden in this week and some other plantings (that I got on clearance at Lowe's).

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Hi Manuela!

What a great idea regarding having my dad try the commercial KT to get his taste buds primed! I never thought to do that, thanks so much for the suggestions. I absolutely agree with you regarding how weak the new GT's tastes. A guy at Whole Foods told me the only difference is that they don't ferment it as long as they used to. He says he gets the original flavor by leaving his unopened bottles out on the counter for a week or two to keep it fermenting longer. I've tried it but just don't have the discipline to wait that long hahahah!

I will post the muffin recipe soon, it's super simple, mostly eggs, coconut flour and oil.

GREAT idea to use some of those gorgeous Graphic's Fairy Labels for the gift canisters...another thing that never occurred to me!

I just love your gardening posts (well, really, I love all your posts) and cannot wait to see your winter garden!


Terri said...

Very good post. I'd lots rather read about what is done on a daily basis (or even a one time basis) to save money than those staid articles that repeat the same info over and over and over again and yet miss the living frugal part of it somehow.

Thank you so much for the encouragement and kind words you give me. It means a great deal and I appreciate that you take the time to do it.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Thank you so much Terri! I absolutely agree...it's so much more inspiring (and offers more useful advice IMO)to read about the daily round as opposed to general ideas. That's why I like your blog so much...in fact I think it's the details you include that spark ideas and motivate me to action. I really appreciate what you do as well...more than you know! :)

Storybook Woods said...

Awww Tracy, well NOBODY practices the art of frugality better than you. You always inspire me, teach me something new and most important make me feel I can do it. This fall we will be needing to be more frugal than ever and I know I can count on you for inspirations xoxo Clarice

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Right back at you Clarice, and thank you sooo much for thinking so well of me...I'll do my best not to disappoint! That being said, I think we all build on each other; and that is kind of a miracle really in that one person's posts and ideas beget another and thus it's a never~ending whirlwind of creative and frugal ideas...sort of like a perpetual idea/motivation machine!!! Okay...I do get carried away...I know. :)))
Anyway thanks again for the good thoughts my sweet friend! '

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I read this earlier but only had a chance to come back and comment this evening.

I LOVE this post and I so enjoy having you writing more these days. :)

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Aww...thank you Brenda...I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! It feels good to be writing again and giving back a bit after taking away such inspiration from your blog (and others).

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

Next time I'm in Whole Foods (trying to avoid that place) I'll buy a bottle and leave it out to see if it gets better. Thanks for the tip!

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Good luck with it Manuela! I know what you mean about trying to avoid Whole Foods...it can get expensive. We have one right down the street and use it primarily to buy their filtered water (reverse osmosis) for 45cents a gallon. I was told they don't have these at every WF. Of course, while we're there I do pick up some odds and ends. Surprisingly, their eggs are fairly well priced and their bulk items are often economical as well (such as their quinoa, organic popcorn and split peas) and the Bragg organic vinegar. Aside from that, it's the occasional Kumbucha treat we buy. I used to buy some of their fermented veggies before I learned how to make them myself. Now our shopping is split between Trader Joe's (across the street from Whole Foods) and the little family owned natural grocery near my dad's house and, of course, the farm stands in his area cannot be beat for price, freshness and quality! It makes the price of gas we spend driving down there hurt a little less! Also, we have the basic COSTCO staples...but now I'm rambling. :)))

The original "FRUGAL LUXURIES" ~ Based on the books by Tracey McBride ~ Established 1993

A warm Thank You to all kind souls and kindred spirits who generously take the time to leave a comment...your encouragement, trust and support are deeply appreciated...please know that we read each and every message and will respond as time allows.


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"FRUGAL LUXURIES: Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul" was written by Tracey McBride and published by Bantam Books, NY, in 1997. It was the first of its genre to synergize the elements of simplicity, frugality and gracious living.

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