More Thoughts on Frugality

I thought of one more reason why I’m frugal. It’s because I see being frugal as a way of earning money without going to work.

For many years I homeschooled and raised kids and did not earn any money. But I viewed the money I saved by living frugally as being like pay: every dollar deducted from the store receipt total because of a coupon or a sale price was a dollar I had earned through my efforts at finding the best price.

As a bonus, it was money I earned without having to pay tax on it. (When wives going to work full-time first came into vogue, one of the criticisms of the concept was the fact that the second income often pushed a couple into a higher tax bracket. I was a newlywed back then, and that knowledge made an impression that never left me, I guess.)

I’ve also been conscious of the sliding scale between income and expenses. Back when I only had two children, I stumbled upon a job opportunity that allowed me to work at home as a writer and editor. The company I worked for gave me as much or as little work as I wanted.

At first, I took on as much as they would give me, thinking I could make a nice side income. But what I discovered was that the more I worked, the less time I had to make meals, thus driving up what we spent on pricy frozen entrees and restaurant food. I also realized that I was spending money on treats and toys for my kids because I felt guilty that I sometimes parked them in front of the television in order to make a deadline. I began to notice a trend: the more money I earned, the more money I spent.

I had to find a balance between earning enough money and saving enough money. So, where was the happy medium?

I never found out, because I had another baby and had to give up the job. Great way to solve that problem :)

These days, I still prefer earning money without going to work. We have a publishing business, so I can continue to work at home, and I decide how many projects I want to take on, i.e., how much I want to work. I divide my day between homeschooling our youngest, working on the business, and continuing to be a frugal homemaker. The ideal mix of those things is something I haven’t figured out yet. But one thing I know for sure: I enjoy the challenge of living frugally.

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.