A Dozen Tips for you to pinch your pennies in the kitchen.
The other day, I was invited to a local Homesteading group to talk about being frugal on the homestead.
Now here’s the thing about homesteaders, farmers & old-timers: We’ve been doing..
and every other buzzword out there since before the days they became buzzwords.
Homesteaders, farmers and old-timers have always understood the value of making every penny count. Using things up completely. As the saying goes…
“Use it up, wear it out, make it, make do or do without.”
I have been working on gathering together tips to help you be frugal on the homestead. Not just for homesteaders, but tips that all households could use. Let’s dig in.
Save Your Veggie Scraps
Keep a freezer bag or freezer container in … your freezer. As you cut onions, potatoes, carrots, etc. save the peels and ends and put them in the freezer bag. When the bag is full, put them in a big pot of water and simmer until you have a gorgeous vegetable broth. Strain out the solids and feed them to your chickens, or put them in the compost. Save the broth for future meals.
Save Your Veggie Leftovers
This might sound crazy, but I promise it isn’t. You know how when you finish a meal, it never fails that there a few leftover peas, or corn or other vegetables? Freeze them as well in their own container.
When your container is full, use them to make an amazing vegetable soup – or add them to your beef stew. The veggies are already cooked and seasoned. I jokingly called it “garbage soup” when my kids were young. All the stuff that would have gone in the garbage…made a great meal!
Learn How to Can. Seriously.
I’m not just talking about vegetables from your garden. When the corn goes on sale in the summer, or the hams or turkeys goes on sale after the holidays, you can get a good deal of food for an excellent price. One ham, cooked and canned in portions could provide over 20 future meals!
Speaking of holiday meals – save your Thanksgiving turkey carcass. You can make a gob-ble of turkey stock.
See article: How to make Homemade Turkey or Chicken Stock
Yes, you can also freeze the meat portions, but freezers take electricity. If the power goes out, then what? And when was the last time you dug down in your freezer and found a frosty hunk of ice that used to be an expensive cut of meat? Canned meats don’t freezer burn, and are blackout-proof.
I make my own canned beans (a tutorial coming soon) for a steal. You can get a big bag of pinto beans, navy bean, kidney beans or other dried beans very cheap. Sometimes you’ll see a 2 lb bag on sale for $1. That single bag of beans could give me a dozen or more pints of beans. Beans ready to go straight from the jar, into the chili. When is the last time you got a dozen cans of beans for one dollar? All it costs you is the time.
Quit Buying Disposable Napkins
Well over a decade ago, I started using cloth napkins. They take minutes to make and can be used over, and over, and over, and over again. I’m still using the same napkins I started out with over 11 years ago! I use fabric scraps from assorted sewing projects and turn them into napkins. I have a big basket full of colorful napkins of varying sizes. Each does the job just as well as another.
Sewing napkins is a great way for kids to learn to sew, too. It’s four straight lines. Hard to mess that up.
Quit Buying (as many) Paper Towels
Now I’m not going to tell you to quit buying paper towels altogether. They have their purposes and at times there may be something really, really nasty you need to clean.
But often we use paper towels for gobs of things that are unnecessary. Instead, keep an old pillow case in your laundry room. When a shirt gets ripped, or a towel wears out, don’t throw them away. Cut or tear them into rags. Keep the rags in that pillowcase and grab one any time you need to clean something. Then just throw it in the wash and put it in the pillow case for the next time.
I don’t know about you, but if my household isn’t careful, we could burn through some disposable zip-lock bags. Again, they have their purpose.
Instead, use containers that you can simply wash and re-use over and over again.
My grandmother always saved her bread bags and other bags that came from the store. She had a “bag of bags” in her kitchen. I think most people do. Honestly, I use grocery store bags as trash bags in all my small trash cans. Why buy something to throw away if you can avoid it?
Ditch the Pre-made Foods & Fast Foods
Rather than buying pre-made foods, make big batches and freeze or can in portions.
Save leftovers for lunches the next day. One of my favorite sandwiches as a kid was a cold roast beef sandwich with butter and ketchup. Now that I think about it… I have cold roast beef leftovers in the fridge right now. Guess what lunch will be for me tomorrow.
Learn that your slow cooker (crockpot) or Instant Pot is your best friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be up to my elbows in dirt, sweat pouring down my face, in the middle of a huge project, when I realize it is dinner time. Being able to work all day and come in to a meal that is already made is heaven! I use my slow cooker or Instant Pot all the time…even more now that we are homesteading. I have many slow cooker recipes here on A Good Life Farm that you can try, and have now started adding Instant Pot recipes as well. (There’s a new one coming this weekend.)
If you sit down and make a menu – weekly, bi-weekly or whatever works. Then you’ll have a plan. Make your grocery list according to what you will be making, and get everything that you will need for all those meals in one trip. The less trips to the grocery store you make, the fewer opportunities you will have to make impulse buys, and the less money you will spend.
Get Rid of Your Dishwasher
That is blasphemous! Yes, I said, “Get rid of your dishwasher.” When we bought our house, that was one of the first things I did. Why?
First of all, I really don’t mind washing dishes. It is peaceful as I stand there looking out my window and watching the deer walk through the pasture. But that aside, why would I want to run a machine, that uses a bunch of energy and runs for an hour or more.. to wash dishes that I could have done in 10 minutes? Even Thanksgiving dinner dishes (and I cook a BIG meal) are done in way less time than a dishwasher would run.
Use a Dish Pan
Be honest. Do you really need to fill your entire sink up with soapy water to wash your dishes? Using a dish pan will reduce the amount of water you are using. Even though I hand wash all of my dishes, I still don’t need to fill my entire sink with soapy water. My cheap, $1 dish pan from the dollar store holds plenty.
A tip about washing dishes:
- Start with the glasses first. They are generally the least dirty.
- Next do the silverware. Again, it is barely dirty.
- Next do your bowls and plates.
- Finish with your pots & pans.
If you start with the plates or the pans, your water will get dirty faster and will need to be replaced before you finish all the dishes. If you work from least dirty to most dirty, by the time you get to the pots & pans, you’re practically starting with clean water.
By the way, rather than pouring that dishwater down the drain, you can pour it into your flower bed. Your plants will appreciate it.
Simplify Some of Your Meals
The last tip that I have for today, is to simplify some of your meals. There is no reason that every meal has to be a four course spread. There is nothing wrong with having sandwiches or paninis for supper a couple nights a week. Simple meals will not only be easier on your wallet, but easier on the waistline, too.
Have penny-pinching kitchen tips not mentioned here? Leave them in the comments below for everyone to glean!