Why Frugality?

Lately I’ve been sharing some of the ways I try to be a frugal homemaker. Frugality is coming back in style now that the economy’s in bad shape again.

Yet I’ve heard criticism of frugality from some surprising sources, even from a few Christians who believe that being frugal ignores the reality that God is very generous to us, and that “there’s more where that came from,” so why try to make things last longer?

Most frugal people will tell you that while they do want to “stretch a buck,” being frugal is also something they do on principle. I guess my frugal streak comes from both principle and background:

I think being a good steward of your resources means letting nothing go to waste, if possible, and using what you have wisely instead of wasting it.

I’ve seen how hard my husband has worked all these years, and tried to make his pay last instead of spending it frivolously on things we didn’t need. Besides, six people living on one income is in itself a motivating factor!

I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have any extra money lying around. I learned to maximize what I had and not to waste anything.

How about you? If you’re frugal, why? And if you’re opposed to frugality, why? I’d love to know how other people feel about it.

Exercises in Frugality, Part 5

Homemade Baking Mix

I was raised on Bisquick baking mix. My mom was sick a lot, so when my dad came home and found four hungry little kids waiting for dinner, he’d whip up a batch of pancakes made from Bisquick.

I never knew you could use Bisquick for anything besides pancakes until I was married and started cooking every night. That’s when I learned that you can make dumplings, and Impossible Pies, and all sorts of good things. I even sent away for a Bisquick cookbook that I still use today.

But at some point along the way, I learned that General Mills, maker of Bisquick, donated money to Planned Parenthood (you know, #1 provider of abortions in this country), so I stopped buying Bisquick (or anything else from General Mills). Instead, I learned to make my own baking mix.

I don’t know if General Mills still supports Planned Parenthood, but I do know that homemade baking mix is cheaper than Bisquick and works just as well. I make baking mix in my food processor, but you can use a pastry blender in a bowl to do the same thing. A food processor does make it less lumpy, though.

Here’s the recipe I use for baking mix:

10 cups flour
1 T. salt
1/3 cup baking powder
2 cups shortening

Blend together dry ingredients; cut in shortening until it looks like flour. Store in a tightly closed container. Keep in refrigerator during the summer.

My food processor isn’t big enough to do the recipe all at once, so I make half at a time and dump it all in a big plastic container:

5 cups flour
1 ½ t. salt
2 ¾ T. baking powder
1 cup shortening

(BTW, I use Aldi flour and shortening; definitely less expensive than store brands.) I use this mix for oven-fried chicken, adding spices to it and shaking it with the chicken pieces in a plastic bag.

The other night I made dumplings to go with stewed chicken. How easy is this?

Dumplings

3 cups baking mix
2 t. dried parsley
1 cup milk

Mix together until soft dough forms. Drop dough into boiling stew, on top of meat and veggies. Cook on low 10 minutes uncovered, then 10 more minutes covered.

Exercises in Frugality, Part 4

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’d been meaning to make my own laundry detergent for ages. Now that I’ve done it and seen how easy it is, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

Recipes for liquid laundry detergent are floating all over the Internet. Here’s the one I used. I bought a pot at Goodwill to keep just for making detergent; it cost a couple of dollars. I keep the detergent in a plastic wash tub with plastic wrap over it because the dishwasher detergent bucket I’d saved for it turned out to have a big crack in the side. (Don’t ask when I discovered this.)

The detergent was very easy to make. I’d bought a cheap grater at the dollar store to use for grating the bar soap, but we lost it in the move and my brilliant daughter suggested I use a peeler instead. And that worked. After that, it didn’t take long before I had my first batch of homemade liquid laundry detergent.

I was tickled to find that it really does get the clothes get clean. Plus, it’s cheap! Really cheap…..I just saw liquid Tide on sale for $6 for a bottle that cleans 25 loads of wash. That’s 24 cents a load. This homemade laundry detergent I’m using costs 2 cents per load. That is not a misprint! Plus it doesn’t contain all the weird chemicals in a bottle of Tide that we probably shouldn’t be breathing.

I won’t bother to spell out the recipe and ingredient costs as this site has already done so.  I did use essential oil (rosewood because the health food store was out of lavender) and it has a pleasant scent. Also, I doubled the amount of Borax and washing soda to make sure everything gets clean, a luxury that doubled the price from a penny a load to two cents. I know, big spender :)

Exercises in Frugality, Part 2

Hot Chocolate Mixes

Living here in chilly Wisconsin, we love our hot chocolate. I usually buy big boxes of hot chocolate mix at Sam’s Club, but decided to try to save a few dollars by making my own. Since I have a food processor, this isn’t hard to do.

There are many hot chocolate mix recipes online. Here’s the one I found, with ingredient costs in parentheses (all ingredients purchased at Aldi):

Hot Chocolate Mix

4 cups dry milk ($1.87)

1 1/2 cups sugar ($.26)

1 cup powdered coffee creamer ($.26)

¾ cup cocoa powder ($.50)

½ package instant vanilla pudding ($.25)

Blend ingredients together in a food processor. Use 1/3 cup mix in a mug of hot water.

A mug of this hot chocolate tastes fine. The instant pudding prevents the mix from sinking to the bottom of the mug. So what’s the problem?

The cost! It works out to 14 cents a serving. A box of 60 envelopes of Swiss Miss mix from Sam’s Club is $5.38 for 60 envelopes, or 9 cents a serving. Bummer. I didn’t work out the price ahead of time because I figured homemade would be cheaper.

However, all is not lost. Our son loves a brand of peppermint hot chocolate mix that is a bit expensive. Adding ½ t. of peppermint extract to this mix recipe makes the hot chocolate he loves at far less than its usual cost of 28 cents per serving.

Exercises in Frugality

R2D2, aka DAK

R2D2, aka DAK

Frugality, one of my favorite topics, continues to increase in popularity as the economy negatively affects more and more families.

Some people apparently take frugal tips pretty seriously; note a couple of cranky commenters at this post. Two thought the blogger’s tips were too common, and one misguided soul suggested the blogger stop homeschooling, put her kids in school and start an in-home daycare.

Instead of complaining that someone’s frugal tips are too basic, most commenters helped by sharing their own tips. I think I’ll do the same for the next few posts.

Bread machines

My beloved Oster bread machine died several months ago after about ten years of use. The unit still worked but the pan began leaking oil (or something similar) into the bread because the seal was shot. A perusal of eBay introduced me to a few people* who would love to sell me a replacement pan for $20 plus $10 shipping.

Not interested. Instead, I hit the local Goodwill and bought a replacement, a Regal for $9. It made so-so dough and baked bread that resembled a doorstop in shape and heft.

I waited patiently while watching Goodwill for a new bread machine but kept seeing the same type as the Regal. A blogging friend suggested I buy a Zojirushi BBCCX20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machine as she’d had great luck with it. I checked it out on Amazon: $200+, and some (though definitely not most) people had trouble with it.

I know how ticked I’d be if I spent $200 on anything and it didn’t work right. So I decided to keep being patient and checking Goodwill. But then I saw a Sunbeam breadmaker at Walmart for $50. It had pretty decent online reviews, so I decided to use my birthday gift money to buy one, but when I went back, they’d cleared out that model and replaced it with another, whose model number came up empty on a Google search. Not a good sign!

Not long after this, I stopped by Goodwill and found four bread machines. Three were Regals or looked like them. The fourth was so funny looking that I didn’t realize it was a bread machine at first. But it came with recipes, and at $5 it seemed worth the gamble.

Turns out it’s old (1990) and works great! It has quite a fan club, and I can see why. I thought I was being so clever calling it R2D2 until I found out that many people call it that.

Anyway, it makes great bread and dough, it was $50 cheaper than the bread machine I saw at Walmart, and $200 cheaper than the Zojirushi. Definitely worth waiting for!

* Sounds like a profitable racket, so I gave my old Oster and the Regal to my eBay seller daughter, hoping she can make some money off the parts, paddles and manuals :)