Living Frugally in a consumer based economy

Years ago we were raising 4 small children on a 13 acre farm.  We lived in a farming community in Michigan.  We raised our own chickens for eggs, pigs for sale and eating, cattle for sale and eating.  We had 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, and a decent size garden.  Our children showed animals at the local fair.  For years we had one income.  I baked and cooked meals from scratch.  I even made  my own bleach cleaner.  That was the extent of my frugal ways.  Oh, that and hand me down clothes for our kids and recycling.

We moved to Florida back in July of 1999.  We left behind our frugal ways.  We started eating out more.  We embraced consumerism.  We lived on a budget, but I worked full time.  I was exhausted, trying to raise teenagers, and our marriage was not doing so well.  Many things happened to us from then to now.  We basically had to start all over.

Now we have an empty nest.  I can’t seem to find a job and we again live on one income.  We live in a city of  close to 100,000 and are learning to garden in central Florida.  Like my Grandma used to say, just because you are poor doesn’t give you an excuse to have a dirty house.  I began searching for low cost cleaning supplies.  The more I looked into to this, the more it became not just about cost, but about health.

I started with laundry soap, moved on to other items such as all purpose cleaners, window cleaners, dish washing soap for the dishwasher, toilet cleaners, and the list goes on.  Every day I think of new things that I want to find ways to clean or replace.

The food supply is another issue.  I mean human hair or duck feathers ground up and put into our bread?  Flame retardant in Mountain Dew?  Ground up bugs in our food coloring?  Read food labels and you find so many ingredients that you can’t pronounce.  Then you read how long the list is?  Scary!

I bake my own bread.  The ingredients are flour, salt, yeast, water, sugar, and oil.  Now read the back of a bread package.  My great value bread has 2 inches long list of ingredients.  For what?  To add back the nutrients they took out prior to grinding the flour?  To make the bread last longer?  Do we really know what the consequences are of long time use of preservatives on the human body?

I get two different reactions to my choice of a frugal life style.  The first are people who think it is so cool.  They may or may not choose to live the way I do, but they find it interesting that it can be done.  Then there are the people who think I am actually crazy!  They think that the chemicals we have been taught to use are better than the chemical free items our ancestors used.  They laugh and make fun of me because they believe the misinformation we have been taught in commercials and from major corporations.  They also seem to feel that only the poor or survivalists choose this life style.

In the mean time, they are spending $8.50 for a bottle of liquid tide (on 50ml, I am spending $2 for twice as much in powder form.  I don’t have added fragrances and my clothes come out just as clean.  There have been no allergic reactions in my family, unlike when I used Tide and Era.

My own mom called the other day and asked how to make her own stuff because of the cost entailed in purchasing her own cleaning supplies.  She said that it costs her $4- $5 each time she goes to the store and buys each item this stuff.  I spend $2.50 on Vinegar and that pretty much makes up the majority of my cleaning ingredients.

When someone looks at me like I am crazy or they struggle with having the money for cleaning supplies (and there are some out there), I just shake my head.  I can’t understand how they would rather purchase things that cost so much more and have so many chemicals that we really don’t understand the long term consequences of.

I used to dread going grocery shopping and my husband used to gripe about how much I spend.  Now I look forward to going because I don’t have to worry about going over the $160 every two week budget.  The costs will get even lower.  I just got my grain grinder and will be getting my wheat whenever I head up north and bring back enough wheat berries until the next trip.  I am ordering non roasted coffee beans online and roasting them myself.

A frugal lifestyle takes time, energy, and a little bit of money to start out with.  It also takes planning.  You have to look at what you have and set time to make it.  The other day I made lemon curd and chocolate syrup.  Both are very easy.  Both are very simple and both use far less ingredients than the store bought items.  Once you get into the routine of planning and making your own items it gets so much easier.

My suggestion is this, think about what you can easily fit into your life now.  Make your own laundry soap to start.  Find a recipe that works for you.  Once you find the right one pay attention to how nice it is not to spend money on it. Tally the savings.  You will find that it is worth the work.  My recipe is for grated bar soap and other items.  This link is for a no grate laundry soap.

There is an issue you have to consider. Do you have hard or soft water?  Hard water needs to be softened for the laundry soap and dishwasher detergent to work well.  Keep that softener with salt for the money savings to work.  This is important not just for the homemade stuff, but for the store bought stuff such as conditioner and shampoo.  Soft water is wonderful and there are no issues with it.

One more issue is this becomes an obsession.  You look for ways to save money and make more things on your own.  I now make my own coffee creamer with half and half.  Look through my previous posts and you will find lots of ideas for what I have already posted.


3 thoughts on “Living Frugally in a consumer based economy”

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