Category Archives: Frugal

Posts about frugal and eco-friendly ways to live.

Frustration-Free Packaging from Amazon

How did I miss this??!


Earth Day

Earth Day Failures:

  • Driving 12 miles there and back for a 20 minute appointment
  • Getting lost on the way (even with GPS), and driving an extra 3-4 miles
  • Sending A in for ‘hot lunch’, which is served on disposable, coated paper plates.
  • Sending A to school with Cheese-Its in a plastic zip-lock bag for his snack.

Earth Day Successes:

  • Driving at/around the speed limit, with one eye on the fuel consumption meter. (Driving like a teenager versus driving like an old lady: 2.6mpg improvement for the old lady)
  • Sending G in for lunch bunch with the Laptop Lunch box and all fresh foods.
  • Walking to preschool and back to pick up G.
  • Turning off all those lights and appliances that usually just get left on by accident.
  • Shutting down my computer. Now.

Frugal Friday – Vegetable Stock

I LOVE soup. I could live on it. And when I’m not eating soup, I’m using stock to boil rice or other grains.

It occurred to me recently that buying stock is probably quite a lot more expensive than making your own. I haven’t steeled myself for boiling up fish heads or giblets yet, but I did make a rather nice vegetable stock last weekend, and it was extremely simple.

The frugal beauty of this is that the most expensive thing in this were the dried mushrooms that I threw in (and they probably cost me about 50 cents). Everything else was stuff I had anyway, and stuff I would have thrown away (I wasn’t planning on using the beet leaves or the hard stems from the kale, the outer cabbage leaves or its heart).  Shopping around, I found that vegetable stock can cost $6 for the same amount of the cheapest one I could find, $11 for the nice organic brand I like.

So here’s my recipe. It’ll need salt, of course, but I thought I’d leave that out until I’m actually using it.

4-5 Red cabbage leaves and heart
Beet leaves (from a bunch of three beets)
3 spring onions
thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
Kale stems
1/2 red pepper
soy sauce (a few splashes)
handful of flat leaf Italian parsley
5 dried morrel mushrooms
1 potato
10 black peppercorns
3 taps of ground sage (sprinkler lid)
16 cups of water

Chop up vegetables roughly. Place in large stock pot. Heat until it reaches the boil (which takes quite a long time) then simmer for 30 minutes (or longer). Leave to cool. Put 2-4 cups into freezer bags, mark quantity on bag, and freeze. Use as needed.

Makes about 12 cups of stock

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Frugal Friday – Almost-Free DTV

I keep getting mailings from my erstwhile cable company wooing me to come back.
“From $115 a month!” they cry, as if that’s a good thing.

Instead, I fire up my digital-ready LCD TV (which does not need to cost the earth See?) and make sure my $30 indoor antenna is pointing East North East, and I pick up everything I could get on basic cable and more.

If you are the frugal type who doesn’t live for TV and doesn’t have a raving sports maniac in the house, then you can set yourself up like this just fine. And, after the initial purchases it is free. Even basic cable cost me $20 a month plus all those wierd taxes they add on. Multiply that by a year and you’ve just paid for your digital-ready TV.

The picture is crystal clear most of the time, and the problems I do encounter have more to do with the stations transmitting them than with my equipment. (I have heard from a neighbor that her converter box signal craps out sometimes, just like my over-the-air signal).

This site will help you find out if you have a strong enough signal in your area (in the US) for this scheme to work.

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Frugal Friday – Victorian Parlour Games

This Friday night, instead of shelling out your hard-earned dollars for a movie all of you can agree on but none of you will love, gather the family in your version of the Parlour and try out some good old Victorian Parlour Games.

Kids will love them, you’ll spend time together, and everyone will be encouraged to get a little silly, which does wonders for your relationships.

Don’t remember any Victorian Parlour Games? Not to worry, I have a selection below:

Everyone, except the chosen “clown”, assumes a pose, somewhere in the room — the sillier the better. You can stand on one leg, draw an imaginary bow like Cupid, strike a heroic pose. (You may stand with your arms crossed,scowling if you must). When everyone has chosen their pose, they stand still as statues. Now the clown begins his/her work.

The clown passes from person to person trying to make them laugh or smile by pulling funny faces, telling jokes etc. If the statue cracks, they’re out. The statue who stays serious and still the longest wins, and becomes the new clown.

source: Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood


One person chooses an object in the room and shows it to everyone. Everyone else leaves the room while the object is hidden. When they come back in, everyone must look for the item. When they see it they should go and sit down. The last person to find it loses, and is the hider next time.
You don’t want to make it obvious where you saw the object, so that you don’t help the other players too much. The misdirection can be as much fun as the search. I imagine this would work better in a Victorian-style knick-knack-cluttered living room, rather than a modern, minimalist home!

source: Seeds of Knowledge


One person is blindfolded while everyone else moves around them, quietly. The blindman blunders around trying to catch people. If he does, he then gets to paw them (those saucy Victorians!) and try to guess who he has caught. If he is correct, the captured becomes the next blindman, otherwise the first blindman keeps trying.

source: every children’s birthday party I ever attended (and in those days you still wore floor length ‘party dresses’ to proper parties!).


A game for families with children old enough to write.

Take long strips of paper, one for each person. Each person writes something on the paper, folds it over and passes it to the next person, over and over again until each of these things have been written:

1, A woman’s name
2, A man’s name
3, Place name
4, He said…
5, She said…
6, A consequence.

Everyone opens up the paper they end up with and read the ‘story’ like this.

“Florence Nightingale met Frank Sinatra at Chuckie Cheese’s. He said …. then she said… and the consequence was…”

Sometimes it’s downright surreal, sometimes silly, and sometimes it really works out…with hilarious results.
source: rainy Sunday afternoons in my childhood.


For the less literary, there are picture consequences, which work the same way. Instead of story lines, you draw a head and neck, then fold down the paper. The next person draws a body and arms, the next legs, and the last one feet. You can also add a name at the bottom. Unravel to create fabulous creatures.
source: rainy Sunday afternoons in my earlier childhood.


Everyone writes down the name of a famous person on a slip of paper, folds it and puts it in a bowl. Pass the bowl to the first person, who becomes the first clue-giver. They must try to get the person next to them to guess the name, without saying anything too obvious (for example you couldn’t say, “His first name is Frank and he’s a singer” or even “His initials are FS”. You have 30 seconds to try to get someone to guess. If they do, you both get a point. If not, the name goes back in the bowl and it is the next person’s turn.
source: Seeds of Knowledge


All of which should be enough to keep you going.

And I didn’t even mention “Charades”.

Frugal Friday – Gift Bags

The Finished ArticleMy kids have a lot of classmates. 41. Plus three teachers. I’d like to give them all a little something, but I don’t want to buy more plastic cr*p, litter the world with wrapping paper, or spend a fortune. Or shop. So I decided to make packets containing the dry ingredients for shortbread that they can make with their parents (only a stick of butter required), and wrap them in drawstring bags made from cheap’n’cheerful quilting cotton, that the kids can use as treasure-keepers.

With my (very) rudimentary sewing skills, making 30 bags took me about 2 hours all in.  Filling up sandwich bags with dry ingredients probably took another hour and a half, although I did it in several sessions (and found it quite relaxing: a cup of this, quarter of a cup of that, two spoons of the other).
My costs were about 50 cents per package and could have been cheaper if I’d had a fabric stash and used yarn for the drawstrings. Even more importantly, I spent no time in toy stores, dollar stores or any place I didn’t want to be.


  • Ziplock sandwich bags (you can get biodegradable ones or hope they get reused). Roughly 6″x5″
  • Cotton or muslin or flannel or some other cheap fabric (I bought Christmas-themed cotton which was already on sale the day before Thanksgiving). I was making 44 bags roughly 6″ x 7″ (before seaming) so I bought 3 yards of a 45″ wide fabric.
  • Thread to match.
  • Sewing machine and rudimentary knowledge of how to use it (believe me, that’s all you need. This could be done by hand. It would just take a whole lot longer).
  • Ribbon (about a foot for every bag you’re going to make). I used grosgrain, but ran short and ended up using yarn for a few bags.
  • Dry ingredients for your favourite cookie recipe.
  • Paper for the instructions.


1.5" Hem along long edge-Iron the fabric and cut, lengthwise into three equal strips (15″ tall each)...

-Iron a hem into the long edge of each strip as follows.


Place the fabric pattern-side down on your ironing table..

Fold over a 1.5″ hem and iron it.



Fold hem in half to hide raw edge

-Open up what you just ironed, and fold the raw edge down to the crease..

Iron the new edge.

. – Fold over the original crease again for a nice raw-edge-free hem.

Repeat on all long edges.


Fold right sides together and iron in place

-Fold in half, right sides together, and iron along the bottom to hold it in place


(No pins! No basting!)

(Somewhere my Primary school sewing teacher is sobbing gently!)



Mark every six inches

– Mark the fabric every six inches.

This is where you will sew the bags’ side seams.




Sew the top hems

– Sew along the long edges. Be careful to sew close to the folded edge, so that you create a large enough ‘pocket’ for the drawstring to go through.

Do both long edges on all your strips of fabric.





Sewing the Side seams I

– Sew the side seams.

.Place the needle a little to one side of the 6″ mark you made,and a little below the long seam you just sewed — a few millimetres will do. (I know, I’m mixing measuring systems, but those tiny parts of an inch annoy me. Millimetres are good. Look ’em up.)

Reverse up and sew just a little over the long seam, then sew down to the bottom of the bag. You can stop a little before the bottom crease, and reverse a bit for a secure end, or you can just run off the bottom of the bag. (These are quick and dirty gifts for kids who will lose them in three weeks anyway!).



Sewing the side seams II

– For the side seam of the next bag, place the needle a few millimetres to the left of the seam you just made.

(this picture shows that I was using a zig-zag stitch at first, but I abandoned that for straight seams.I think they worked better).

Repeat the same method, backing up a bit over the long seam and sewing to the bottom.

– Repeat this all the way along the strip until you have a series of little almost-6″ pockets in the fabric.




Cut between the seams

– Cut carefully between the close side seams.

(The little bit of reversing-over-the-long-seam you did will hold the drawstring pocket’s seam in place when you cut through it).

– Trim as many of the long threads as you can bear, but don’t be too fussy

(see point above about these being for kids).



A Bag!

– Turn right-side out.

Thread 12″ or grosgrain ribbon onto a large-eyed tapestry needle and push through the drawstring pocket, ending up where you started.




Fill the bags– I recommend setting up a production line, with all your dry ingredients in separate, large bowls on the counter top.

(Reaching into the flour bag over and over is just too foutery).





Squeezed and folded

– Scoop your ingredients into ziplock bags, carefully squeeze excess air out and fold the bags over.

– Stuff the bags into the drawstring bags and pull closed.




Don’t forget to add baking instructions, including: any other ingredients they’ll need, size of baking tin (if necessary), temperature and time, best method/shape, and any special requirements (for example, my shortbread needs to be pricked with a fork all over before being baked).
You can type and print the instructions and stick them in the bag, or you can get creative. You could hand-write one, scan it and print copies. Cut it out with fancy scissors, paste it to a square of your fabric that you’ve cut with pinking shears, and then tie it onto the drawstring. Go wild!